I don’t normally devote an entire review to an EP, not unless I just want to, or maybe if the EP plays more like a full album. I think both of those exceptions apply to the new EP from Exploring Birdsong. It’s called Dancing in the Face of Danger, and it releases on March 24th through Long Branch Records.
Exploring Birdsong hails from the UK. The trio includes Lynsey Ward on vocals and piano, Jonny Knight on bass guitar and synth, and Matt Harrison on drums and percussion. You’ll also hear Tee Soulful on programming, Elaine Ambridge on violins and viola, and Luke Moore on cello.
Pigeonholing this band’s sound is pretty impossible. Exploring Birdsong plays a form of progressive rock, but you’ll notice that they don’t have a guitarist. That means the music is driven by piano, synth, and bass grooves; sometimes, that can mean overflowing and melodic passages, and other times that can be some bulkier, even heavier segments. I think the band is influenced by a wide range of artists, and so they have pop elements, neoclassical elegance, and rock fervor all deeply sown into their musical DNA.
Possibly the most potent part of the music, Lynsey’s extraordinary vocals do communicate a level of eagerness and vigor that few others do. When she chooses to swell her voice to higher octaves, the true magic of Exploring Birdsong begins. As an aside, I was thrilled to hear her guest on a track on the new Borealis record in 2022. If you haven’t heard that, you really should.
I will say that this EP is heavier and more energetic than 2019’s The Thing with Feathers. It has more of a rock sound to it, and there are even synth portions that remind me of New Wave somewhat. The core melodies in each track are very strong, and it is easy to find yourself humming them throughout your day. I especially like how confident the piano lines sound, and how fearless the kinetic drive of some of the songs can be.
Dancing in the Face of Danger has five tracks and is about 23 minutes long. Honestly, just two or three more songs would have made this a full album. As an EP, though, it plays very much like an album in its basic musical arc and also in how satisfying it can be. That said, I find myself starting it over immediately after it ends. It feels like there are more treasures to mine within its depths, so it never gets stale. I do hope for a full album from the band in the near future.
Each of the five tracks is well done. “Pyre” is a tremendous opener with soaring vocals, great drumming, and a nostalgic melody that arises in the second half that I love. “The Way Down” seems like the unsung hero of the release, honestly, with how dark and yet vibrant it is. The chorus is quite arresting.
The last three tracks include the two singles. I absolutely love “Bear the Weight” with its slow-burning rise to great heights; I especially like the rockin’ piano in the second half. “Ever the Optimist” has been out since November last year, and I always feel enthusiastic and happy after hearing its instrumental passages and great primary hook. The closer “No Longer We Lie” might be my favorite, though. I like how dynamic the chorus feels, and how excellent the drumming and bass are. The synth in the second half feels warm and inviting, and the song is simply infectious from every angle.
Exploring Birdsong have such deep potential, not only in their different approach to the genre, but also in their strong writing skills. This EP is a pure joy and will leave a smile on your face, and you will want to hear it again and again. I’m excited to see where this band goes in the future.
Find Exploring Birdsong online: