It’s interesting to review an album that you’ve spent more than a year living closely with. Usually, I end up familiarizing myself with the songs I’m waxing poetic about while I’m writing about the source material, be the album a new release or an older disc I simply hadn’t devoted the time to until now, but with this review, that is not the case.
2009 saw the release of some very solid albums, from blogosphere favorites like Phoenix and Grizzly Bear to slow burn, indie rock instant classics like Dawes‘ debut but over the past twenty two months, no album has become as familiar to me as the third release from Canada’s Taylor Kirk, who performs under the moniker Timbre Timbre.
Remember that “folk noir” I gush about so often? Well, if you’re looking for the perfect example of what “folk noir” is, look no further than the self titled 2009 release from Timber Timbre. Kirk makes music that haunts, songs you won’t soon forget. Timber Timbre is equal parts restrained beauty and disquieting atmosphere, performed in the most unforgettable of manners. The fact of the matter is that Timber Timbre is a criminally overlooked masterpiece of a record. This isn’t just some macabre sad sack with an acoustic guitar, spinning spook stories. This is something special.
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“Demon Host”, the opening track on Timber Timbre, lets you hear exactly what you’re in store for, acting as a preface to the rest of the album, a stand alone track of sheer beauty and nettled simplicity that besieges you, ensnaring your attention, particularly at the end when the pleading “Oh’s” that began the track are echoed by a mysterious chorus of reverbed vocals that appear to have manifested in the ether. “Demon Host”, as is with the rest of the album, is anchored by Kirk’s impeccably smooth vocals and macabre lyrics. For the most part, the song features a guitar strummed so quietly that it’s simply a shadow of itself, a mere background element. With the music so restrained, the shining element of Timber Timbre easily become Kirk himself.
Lyrically, Kirk spins poetic tales of romanticized death, of grave robbing, ritualistic murders, demons and ghosts and love that lasts beyond the grave.The are more lovely elements here, but never once are the romantic aspects of Timber Timbre stated in such an overt way that things even being to border on sappy. This isn’t the Disney film version of the Haunted Mansion. Instead, this is an authentically possessed house, deep in the bayou, with the spirits of Kirk’s own closeted skeletons chained to the walls. Part of the smoothness of Timber Timbre’s seductiveness is due almost entirely to Kirk’s voice. The man is a crooner, plainly put, and the more restraint he uses, the more beautifully this fact gets to shine. When he sings “I ain’t no doctor, babe. I ain’t no doctor’s son, but I’ll cool your fever until the doctor comes”, (“Until The Night Is Over”) with the utmost of sincerity, it’s hard not to get the chills.
That sincerity is present throughout the entirety of Timber Timbre, giving a visceral layer of true fright to the darkness in Kirk’s lyrics, making you wonder just what goes on in the wilderness of the great white north (Read: Canada) from which he hails.
This isn’t to say that Timber Timbre is lacking anything when it comes to music showcased on the 2009 disc. “No Bold Villain” features a ghostly echo of ragtime influenced piano. “Magic Arrow” is laced with dark guitars, the sounds of which linger in your ears long after the song (and even the album) has come to a close. Even more romantic tracks like “We’ll Find Out” feature the spookiest of elements, as Kirk’s echoing voice warns “It’s coming off the sea, and it’s moving through the trees” backed by a chorus of ethereal vocals and a mournful violin. And while second-to-last track “Trouble Comes Knocking” might escape your ear upon the first few listens, eventually the song becomes a late album stand out, featuring an almost violent hook that pairs perfectly Kirk’s chilling chorus: “With a saw and a bag in my trunk, I keep my eyes and my mind on the road.” When the songs elements all culminate at the end of “Trouble Comes Knocking”‘s five and a half minutes into a spooky swirl of sound that dissipates like smoke in the air, you realize it, if you haven’t already: Timber Timbre is damn amazing.
Timber Timbre is the kind of album that reveals itself more and more to the listener the longer you listen to it. In the time since it’s late 2009 release, I’ve familiarized myself so thoroughly with the crevasses and intricacies of Timber Timbre that I know the album better than I know myself (which, truth be told, isn’t saying a lot because I can be kind of confusing sometimes) and that pleases me greatly because, even a year after it’s initial street date, I’m still discovering new favorite moments on the eight song, forty minute release. (Currently, the beautiful closer “No Bold Villain”, a song which beautifully chronicles the dissolution of a relationship all the while using Kirk’s terrifying metaphors, is taking the “Most Valuable Track” position in my ears and in my heart.) Timber Timbre is an album that vexes, the audible equivalent of overcast shadows and the chilling drop in temperature that signify a physical haunting. There’s beauty in it’s restraint, in Kirk’s chilling ghost stories, in the old time, bluesy elements and ragged, hushed, gospel stomp. I’m a woman of few regrets but having never got the opportunity to see Kirk tell his tales of dread in person is definitely at the top of my list.
Note: For more Timber Timbre, just come over to Amber’s house! She’ll probably be spinning the band’s 2009 disc, as well as their first two releases. Or, instead of trekking all the way to Michigan to do that, you read more about them at Radio Free Chicago and check out their breathtakingly amazing Daytrotter session.