Bird Call – The Animals Know EP

Bird Call - The Animals Know EP

Singer-songwriter Chiara Angelicola is Bird Call and this 6-song EP was produced by Joel Hamilton (Jolie Holland, Tom Waits, The Black Keys) and self-released in September.  Chiara formed the band Morning Theory in 2002 and has performed in various duos and as a solo artist under her own name, releasing Masquerade in 2008.

Chiara’s musical and vocal style has evolved as Bird Call and she displays a wide vocal and emotional range on The Animals Know. Her richly emotive vocals glide, change shape, and hang in the air and call to mind Beth Gibbon’s work on Out Of Season. Like Beth, Chiara traverses through rocky and melancholic relationship territory, sometimes world-weary and sometimes full of innocent wonder. Chiara holds and stretches out vocal notes to express her emotional state, sometimes shifting into a sweet lilt or a child-like tone.  She ably supports herself with contemplative piano notes, strings by Noah Hoffeld and Karen Waltuch, and baritone saxophone by Ralph Carney on “Berlin”.

Opener “Waltz in the Snow” is an ode to the San Francisco native’s new home of Brooklyn and she utilizes a thick, syrupy, Billie Holliday-like tone at the start and then flutters her voice sweetly around poignant strings, piano notes, and a steady cymbal and drum march, sighing that “I’m in my mind half the time…”  “Berlin” is steeped in a vintage vibe and takes the listener back to the ambience of that city in the war-torn 1940s with Chiara channeling a nightclub chanteuse singing in a wavering, regretful tone amid piano and sonorous strings.

The centerpiece of the EP is the title song “The Animals Know”, an introspective, piano-driven number that sounds like it was recorded in a large, empty room, creating space in the song that is occupied by deeply resonating piano notes, a distant, sharper sound, and Chiara’s intimate and keening vocals that rise on the key line “The animals know when to run from the fire… / and it hasn’t even started.”

The Beatles-esque “Bye, Bye Honeymoon” is the most upbeat track, with a fuller, 1960s sound of jaunty drum beat and matching piano march and handclaps.  Chiara swings coyly and lightly through much instrumental accompaniment, rounding off her words like Lisa O’Neill of Sing-Sing as she declares “I should’ve known that a romance / ain’t more thrilling than a mystery.”  The unwieldy-named and hymn-like “The Battle Outside the Gates to Your Arms” ends the EP on a solemn note with spare piano and strings and Chiara’s vocals and humming augmented by a choir at times as she intones “Every day don’t get better / unless it beat the one before.”