Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #18: "The Birds" -- Elbow

British rock band Elbow returned in 2011 with Build a Rocket Boys!, fairly standard output for the Mercury Prize-winning five-piece. That's not to say it was a bad year for the band, but in no way did they really stand out, either.

Sometimes it takes an eight-minute lead song off the album to really catch one's attention. And that's exactly what Elbow pulled off with "The Birds."

The song's allure lies in the beauty it creates with its many supporting instruments. Singer Guy Garvey doesn't have too much to do throughout the song's first five minutes, his melody fairly stagnant and in a lower register. It's the instrumentation slowly building behind him that really makes the song. Its rising nature is a prelude to the explosion of sound that occurs at the five minute mark.

"The Birds" hits its stride when the strings arrive. Elbow does orchestral rock better than most, and they show it off here. It's the fusion of older stringed instruments and newer rock instrumentation that makes the song so intriguing.

Eventually, the song transforms into a sun-drenched, string-laden opus, with Garvey finally launching into his higher register. One might have expected that things would have gotten to that point before, but it's nonetheless a harrowing experience when the band is at full volume.

What I enjoy most is that the song doesn't even feel eight minutes long. Time well spent, I suppose.

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