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  Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds  
  Silent Kids  
  Two Sheds Records  
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Atlanta's Silent Kids have been around for a good long while by this point – over 5 years at my count. Back in early 2003, they released their first album, Tomorrow Waits, which showed the potential of the band as whole, despite its positively frigid production. In the intervening time, the band has been through any number of line-up changes; however, things seem to have coalesced around founding members guitarist/vocalist Michael Oakley and guitarist Jeff Holt, with substantial assistance from drummer Leanna Fugate. And finally, at long long last, Silent Kids have released their second album, Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds, bringing to fruition a recording I think I first heard about some 3 years ago.

Upon first listen, it's clear that Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds was well worth the wait. Boasting a remarkably clear mix which allows individual instrumental lines their due, the 11 song record visits tunes that have becoming familiar to the denizens of the local Atlanta indie rock scene. As an example, opener Stars and Rust begins with a single guitar riff that is vaguely similar to any number of tunes off Tomorrow Waits, before rounding itself out with a distinctive syncopated drumbeat and driving low end. Michael Oakley's familiar voice breaks in as the music begins to pick up before the song builds into a crescendo of sheer happiness. It's a powerful beginning that offers itself outward without any of the claustrophobia which characterized Silent Kids earlier work.

Likewise, The Marble Faun revisits the earlier psychedelic aspects of the band. Yet, again, the crisp guitarwork and dominant drumwork keeps the song from looping inwards and gives it a more rocking and heavier aspect. Similarly, a nice keyboard solo echoes the main vocal line and rounds out the sound. Nevertheless, the first true highlight of the album comes via the fourth track, Cable Cars. Beginning with a light jangle punctuated with a keyboard bloop, this song is a near perfect pop tune. The rhythm meanders, holding the primary vocals back and creating a false sense of melodic tension which only bursts at the end of the chorus, courtesy a unexpected minor-keyed progression. The contrast between the bounciness of the verses and early parts of the chorus and that one line is quite pronounced, but it works surprisingly well, even as it plays with the listener's expectations.

The next song, Radio Was Unplugged, is a long standing live favorite of mine. Consisting of a driving rambunctious drumbeat and heavily effected keyboards with undertones of a fuzzy guitars, the song begins with a simple, chanted opening before Oakley and compatriots harmonize on the catchy, meandering chorus. Again, the contrasts within the tune are remarkably well constructed, so that the progression seems quite natural. And when you combine the speed of the song with its natural sing-a-long vocals, it is over far too soon for my tastes, which is perhaps the mark of a great tune.

The next few songs are uniformly interesting, with Teenage Symphonies featuring a slower keyboard loop and vaguely 70s-esque heavy rock guitar/bass combo and the very short Theme for Vultures bringing back the layers of effects that were used on Tomorrow Waits. But with Pacific Northwest Blues, Silent Kids again really hit their stride. This tune is expansive and driving, with layers of vocals and effected guitars. Mix-wise, all of the instrumentation and vocals are densely packed in, but everything is clear enough so that you can easily pick out the differences between the two individual guitars. As the song moves briskly forward, there is another unexpected pause, as the music falls out and the band instead offers up a odd multi-part harmony of "ba-ba-bas" which immediately grows in volume and is then subsumed by a repeat of the chorus. Another short song, it ends with a chiming keyboard part that leads directly into the next song, The Hissing of the Summer Grass, which is distinguished by a main female vocalist.

Following this, the band comes back around with what has become one of their more memorable tunes, Soccer Riot. Long ago, I can remember Michael Oakley telling a crowd about the genesis of this tune, which, I believe, involved a friend of his caught in a…you guessed it! riot in the U.K. Now the song makes its appearance on record, complete with sound effects of cheers, sirens, and gunfire (helpful hint: this is not a song to play on the car stereo when one is stuck in traffic in downtown Atlanta). Nevertheless, the tune is really pretty, with a lightly strummed guitar leading off the syncopated melody. As the song progresses, the instrumentation builds up, with interaction between a harder electric guitar and the afore-mentioned slightly-strummed one. And like other songs on the record, the instrumentation is densely packed in, with each distinct part audible within the haze.

Finally, Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds ends with the almost melancholy Dim Sparkle Spin, which features the vocals of guitarist Jeff Holt. Although the melody is jangly, the languid pacing combines with Holt's voice to invoke a sense of loss. It's not the most upbeat ending for the record, but it does effectively convey the underlying intelligence and cleverness which characterize Silent Kids' music.

As I mentioned, from the first moment I put Dinosaurs Turn Into Birds in and began to listen, I was totally impressed by how well this long-awaited record came across. And yet, with each additional listen, I find something new and interesting in at least one of the songs, whether it be a previously missed keyboard burble or a unexpected chord change that works in spite of itself. When you combine these qualities with Silent Kids' ability to craft a catchily interest tune as well as the remarkably clear production work that actually enhances the music, I believe I have come up with my favorite record of 2008 thus far.

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Also on EvilSponge:
   Album: Tomorrow Waits
   Festival Set: Corndog-o-rama 04 (with photo)
   Concert: Sat.2.Oct.04
   Festival Performance: Corndog-o-rama 2006, day 2
   Concert: Sat.19.May.07
   Album Release Show:  Fri.28.Mar.08

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