On their debut record, Come Around, neo-vocal pop group Birdland Avenue show flashes of songwriting brilliance and bring their a capella roots to a streaming-friendly indie-pop sound.

Evan Linsey, Kayla Pichichero, Toria Rainey, and Adrienne Rube met in the Treblemakers a capella group at Boston University before forming Birdland Avenue in 2017. Since then, they’ve expanded their sonic palette, using loop stations and samplings to create new textures and arrangements. After over a year of working on original songs, their first album, Come Around, has finally arrived, a well-polished collection of radiant vocal pop that weaves together organic and synthetic textures without losing its human touch.   

Birdland Avenue have great songwriting instincts, and they play to their strengths on their debut. First, there’s a great ear for arrangements—take the HAIM-like backing vocals of “On My Mind”, or the Seinabo-Sey-like middle eight and final chorus of “Rabbit Hole.” Secondly, there’s sonic consistency: whether working through a difficult spot in a relationship on “Anything Forever” or meditating on love and the cosmos in “Sapphire & Gold,” pastel vocal harmonies and washes of sampled textures surround each of the eight tracks and cast them in different types of sunlight. There aren’t any hard edges on this album, musically speaking, but the vocals alone here are enough to guarantee repeat listens.

Warmth and sunshine are a theme on this album, implicitly in the production and sometimes explicitly in the lyrics, which often prioritize mood and feel over narrative. This is most clearly true in “Breeze Baby,” the group’s best song to date, where Adrienne, Toria, and Kayla swap solos while walking through a musical garden filled with honey bees, dandelions, and sunshowers. Each are gifted singers, and their chemistry is most obvious here (especially in the live version of the song). The lyrics are chock full of gardens and green, and the all-natural sounds in the production mirror this—snaps, claps and layered vocals twine around a beat animated by inhales and exhales, and when the verse finally blooms into the chorus, the melody that unfurls is tender, even bittersweet. For the first track of a debut album, it’s extraordinarily strong and deceptively lighthearted.

Like many new and successful pop acts of the past few years, Birdland Avenue’s sound rests at the center of a Venn diagram containing soul, electronic pop, and folk. While this is certainly a successful commercial formula, it can be a risky artistically for some. As exemplified by a glut of “chill” electro-pop acts in recent years like Shallou, Oh Wonder, and XYLØ, there’s a whole new genre of streaming-friendly, highly sanitized pop built specifically just to take the edge off (see Liz Pelly’s excellent 2017 piece). Luckily, Birdland Avenue’s powerful arrangements and playful melodies keep them out of this category, and make their songs more than easy listening—while it’s not always obvious, every sound on the record was made by the singers themselves. This commitment to handmade textures means that the production can sometimes suffer in comparison to the vocals, such as on “Anything Forever” featuring local rapper Noel Pancho. However, this decision ultimately works in their favor, as these naturally understated arrangements support the vocals in a way that template synths couldn’t.

It’s not often that a newly-formed group comes quickly to find a fully-formed sound, but Birdland Avenue are well on their way. Distinctive vocal arrangements and pristine production move many of these songs from good to great, and the final choruses of songs like “I’d Understand” and “Sapphire & Gold”) demonstrate that their sound has the potential for a much wider audience. Come Around is filled with light and pop potential, and as they continue honing their sound, their future looks at least as bright as the record they’ve created.  

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