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On Deck: Yellowbirds

By ; June 24, 2013 at 9:29 AM 

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Prior to his work in Yellowbirds, frontman Sam Cohen was making psych oriented pop music with Apollo Sunshine and finding comfort in the anthemic highs for which that band was known.  In 2009, when Apollo Sunshine seemed to have finally run its course, Cohen felt that his time as a musician might be coming to the same end.  But after getting together with some fellow New York musicians, some of the songs that he’d written in his bedroom found themselves being reworked and fleshed out under the newly christened Yellowbirds moniker.  Their 2011 debut, The Color, received praise for its campfire intimacy and homespun earnestness and allowed Cohen and his musical cohorts to dive deeper into the details of their new sound.    

Now a full time band (including drummer Brian Kantor, singer/bassist Annie Nero, and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman—who also happens to be Nero’s husband), Yellowbirds have just released their sophomore album, Songs From The Vanished Frontier, via The Royal Potato Family.  And while the band is still mining the same vein of communal indie rock that madeThe Color so instantly memorable, the songs on Vanished Frontier feel fuller and more fleshed out.  This is in no small part to the fact that the band recorded these songs in their own personal studio—though Cohen is quick to point out that he “made a point to write the entire album on an acoustic guitar before delving into recording” because he “wanted to believe in the songs in their rawest form.”

Recently Cohen sat down with Beats Per Minute to talk about a few of the records which influenced his own musical direction and that continually find a home in his personal music rotation.  From the political soul of The Impressions to the detailed orchestrations of Phillip Glass, and quite a bit in-between (including an album of Iranian psych rock), Cohen delves deeply into the artists that have played an important role in his formative musical development.  Check out his full list below.


The Impressions - The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story
The Impressions – The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story

This is one of those best and brightest kind of records. The singing, writing, arranging, and playing are all kind of perfect, and you can hear the momentum of elements aligning. It’s slick, but so awesome. “Seven Years” is the standout track for me. Also “Jealous Man” and the title track. Curtis Mayfield is setting the stage for what he would go on to do on “Curtis” which is one of my all-time-set-in-stone-favorite records.


Various Artists - The Sound Of Wonder
Various Artists – The Sound Of Wonder

This compilation of Lollywood soundtracks (films from Lahore Pakistan in the 60’s and 70’s) is the most fun album I’ve ever heard. The coolest guitars, synths, and percussion sounds change constantly from measure to measure. Insane vocals, even accordion; every sound feels like a cameo when it shows up. The recordings from a production standpoint are sublime. Great for late night tired drives or when you’re ready to make up and dance.


Philip Glass Ensemble - Glassworks
Philip Glass Ensemble – Glassworks

At points organic instruments are orchestrated to sound like trippy sequencers slowly beating and modulating. At other times it’s drawn out, minimal and sombre. I couldn’t imagine music that is more precise and deliberate, yet it wields power and emotion. It’s actually kind of scary.


Kourosh - Back From The Brink
Kourosh – Back From The Brink

This is an anthology spanning a decade (the 70’s) of Iranian singer/guitarist/songwriter Kourosh Yaghmaeia. Psychedelic fidelity – it’s super distorted and raw – meets melodic, heartfelt crooning with electric guitars to match. Paper thin ragged acoustic guitars chug with the raw/brash/roomy hi hat and drums. The dirtiness belies (or compliments, depending how you like it) beautiful songs and chord progressions, and the minor melodies speak to me in that secret semitic language of love that could only originate in the cradle of civilization.


Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire De Melodie Nelson
Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire De Melodie Nelson

Everything you need to know about understatedness and bass tone.

Yellowbirds’ latest record Songs From the Vanished Frontier is out now on Royal Potato Family


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