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Posts: 997 reviews "Definition Sickness"  Reply with quote  

Definition Sickness is available NOW:

Here's the first album review to come through and the writer paid a great attention to details. Always good to see:

- by Señor Editor, 11 November 2013

No Bird Sing are an indie hip hop outfit from Minneapolis, consisting of drummer/producer Graham O’Brien, guitarist/producer Robert Mulrennan and emcee Joe Horton. It’s been announced earlier this Fall, that the trio have signed with Sage Francis’ underground juggernaut Strange Famous Records, and tomorrow they will drop their first release on the label – “Definition Sickness”.

Though they’re already well established on the highly potent Minnesota hip hop scene, I’m new to NBS, and this release (their third) is my introduction to the group. I did hear the singles, and so I had some very vague idea what to expect from the record, but I wanted to wait and see if the rest of “Definition Sickness” measures up to the two songs promoting it. Turns out it does more than that.

The voice of the group, Joe Horton, is an emcee with a deep and heavy vocal, and the man has plenty to say. He’s got a monotone type of rap voice, but it’s very strong and works really well with his style. On slower songs, like the opening “Breathless”, it has a nice calming quality to it, fitting the reflective nature of the track. On more up-tempo songs, like the banging “Reality Hunger”, where he proclaims “Motherfuckers talk shit, but never bet against us”, it’s commanding and aggressive, sounding properly badass.

It’s not “mostly the voice”, though. It’s at least equal parts that and the lyrics, because Joe Horton is a damn impressive writer. I mentioned that he has a lot to say here, and he touches on some very thought-provoking concepts. One of them (and, as I understand, it’s what the title of this album alludes to) is 'Defining versus Understanding'. How language limits our experiencing of reality, how we tend to equal knowing what the definition of something is, knowing what to call it, with understanding it. The “definition sickness” of society, is how it lost sight of language not really being reflective of reality. It’s very interesting, and it’s just a part of what Horton raps about. The songs on “Definition Sickness” are rich with verses that seem to be just waiting to get picked apart, layer by layer, with each listen. I’ve only had the album for a couple of days, but it’s very rewarding every time I notice something new and wrap my brain around it.

What about the production all this heady stuff is rapped on, though? This is really where the ‘band’ aspect of No Bird Sing comes into play for me. It’s obvious that these three have worked together long enough to really complement each other, and know how to make their music sound the way they want it to. Mulrennan and O’Brien are doing much more than just making beats on here, it’s very well thought-out production with a live music feel. Things like the strings at the end of “Breathless” or the guitar in “Friday” really add a lot to the songs, and the heavy drums nicely contrast with the, often mellow, soundscapes. There’s an interlude of sorts on the album (with guest vocals by Adam Svec), called “Rapture Muffin”, where the production really takes center stage for a moment. It’s very cool and it’s a nice touch, giving the listener a pause before the “And War” single (watch the video below) begins.

The trio is joined on the record by guest vocalists Chastity Brown, Aby Wolf, James Diers, Adam Svec and Molly Dean, as well as such emcees as label boss Sage Francis, Kristoff Krane, Sadistik and Crescent Moon (who Trash Mutant readers may remember from Numbers Not Names). On paper, that may seem like a lot of guests for an album that's fourteen tracks-long, but everybody fits in perfectly well, and you never lose sight of this being a No Bird Sing record, which is commendable and just the way it should be.

As far as album highlights go, there are many, but I’ll name a few that stayed with me the most. The brooding “Don’t Think” single (above) with Sage is definitely one, and “Target Practice” (with Kristoff Krane), where Horton raps lines like “Why does one man have more beds than he can sleep in? Where's the line between competition and preying on people's weakness? (...) Why is advertising good, propaganda bad and sexual desire painting lines inside my lonely head?” is another. Both “Flag Waver” and the sinister-sounding “Fashionable Cannibal” got to be two of the hardest tracks on the album, and they’re also among the songs I’ve been playing the most. While not EVERY song is one I'm attracted to (and honestly, that's something that happens very rarely), this record really has a lot to offer, and I suspect that “current favorites” will be changing a lot.

“Definition Sickness” has been a surprising release for me. I didn’t know the band before, but it turned out they just dropped one of the most intriguing albums in recent months. Hopefully, they’ll get a whole lot more new listeners when their album drops tomorrow, because it deserves that. It’s haunting, very fresh and pretty much the perfect autumn listening. Get it while it’s hot.

“Definition Sickness” drops November 12th on Strange Famous Records, and you can get a copy on the SFR website. Make sure to follow No Bird Sing on Twitter, and check them out on their website.
Post Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:32 pm
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