It’s been a little over a year since Oh! My Blackbird released their first full-length, Dare Me. I thought that album was a sweet piece of folk pop confection that ended up ranked in my top 50 albums of 2012. I’ve been wondering when they would return, and whether they would keep with the style the do so well or change it up a bit. Finally last week they released a short three song EP that answers that question emphatically.
There are a ton of great qualities in O!MB’s music. The biggest is the harmonies they sing. Annie Sullivan and Veronica Kohl’s voices were made for each other. Those two could probably put out an a capella record that would sound as full as most five-piece bands. Another is multi-instrumentalist Nick Jozwiak’s ability to bring in diverse instrumentation and make it sound like it all fits together. The fact that Sullivan also has the ability to pen great songs is just an added bonus.
The EP trend is wearing me down a bit. I understand the desire of fans for content as soon as it’s done, and that artists want to fill that demand by supplying EP’s. But more often that not these two, three, four song sets are just random songs that don’t go together in any form. Just a hodgepodge of songs thrown together. Violet does not do that. These songs feel very much like they were crafted at the same time, and there’s common threads that weave their way through each song.
The set kicks off with Sullivan and Kohl lamenting over a lost lover. Jozwiak joins in at the 30 second mark, and the three-part harmony is one of the best things you’ll hear for a while. His cello cuts through the song like a knife edged in bittersweet longing. “It’s Not That I Still Love You (Cause I Don’t)” is full of regrets and questions about what could have been. As it builds slowly, you start to think that maybe the song will never end-and that would be ok. Then producer Oliver Ignatius makes an appearance on electric guitar that upends the whole thing and it comes crashing down on itself in a most glorious fashion.
“Orlando” is my favorite track of the three. I think it’s the best written and the best performed here, and maybe the best of all their songs to date. It could be the handclaps. Or the fact that it feels so gigantic. I like the way Sullivan writes lyrics-they aren’t always hard-hitting, but they convey emotions and ideas that are heartfelt. She does some great work on this one: “How many people in your life look like me? I was only waiting to set you free. How many lifetimes do you need to love? Only one question, is two enough?”
The title track comes last, and it mixes a bit of the spaciness of Mazzy Starr with the 60’s charm of She & Him. Jozwiak breaks out the sitar on this one, and it acts as a portal that transports this song to a different dimension. It can get a bit trippy toward the end. Like maybe if you’re going into a sweat lodge looking to see a vision you could take this song with you.
Oh! My Blackbird excel at undercutting sweet happy melodies with biting lyrics about love. The trio have perfected their sound (though it is hard to improve upon the greatness of Dare Me) after only a couple releases. Violet is a strong EP that I hope is just a placeholder for a new full-length sometime in the next year. Rather than satiating my desire for more O!MB, this just made me want even more.