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Review: Eureka Birds, Eureka! EP

Eureka Birds
Eureka! EP
[Self-released (2010)]

With the Peabody Institute right in our midst, it should come as no surprise that Baltimore is home to more than a couple Chamber [pop/rock/etc] bands. The Eureka Birds, led by Justin Levy (who also performs as “Eureka Bird”) on the drums, keys, and vocals, have done an admirable job mixing the noisier side of indie rock (“That Mountain Is a Volcano”) into sets with baroque-tinged pop (“Sarah Sits and Cries”). Dave Rogoza’s guitar is the major purveyor of dirt on the EP, shoving discord and distortion into the buildup of “Sunset on Film” and sprinkling jabs of scratchy lead in other less obvious places. The vocals are mostly what’s become expected in the genre—clean, modern, and melodic with few frills—but again the band pulls in a few lo-fi tricks to add dirt to the proceedings. This tension between the precision of the baroque and the grit of rock keeps the Eureka! EP interesting from start to finish.

The lyrics—which may be obvious from titles like “That Mountain Is a Volcano” and “Cactus Man”—can tend toward the abstract and absurd, with some obvious nods to the Flaming Lips and mid-1960s Beatles. Levy tends to avoid being overly clever with his phrasing; but even if he doesn’t take any major chances with the words, his subject matter and imagery is outside the box.

However, the mix on the record makes it hard to catch the words, with everything from the piano to even the highhat overpowering the lead vocals at the end on “We’ll Get By.” Since Levy’s lyrics, like his melodies and voice, are good, it’s a shame that these elements were relegated to afterthought volume levels.

But as an introduction to the band, the EP is solid, and it shows an uncommon level of variety for such a short work without ever losing its core sound elements. And since the record is available at the low low cost of “name your price” on BandCamp, I can’t think of any reason it’s not worth picking up for fans of indie rock or chamber pop.

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

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