$20 in advance ($25 day of show)
Seth Glier’s new album "Birds" is steeped in conflict and contradictions. There’s grief and loss, but also strength and resilience; doubt and dismay, but also a sense of optimism as Glier confronts heavy topics and wrestles them into the daylight.
Glier (pronounced “Gleer”) recorded Birds in an airy loft in western Massachusetts outfitted with a grand piano and floor-to-ceiling windows. Birds roost just outside those windows, on the roof of the converted mill building where he lives, and they became his sympathetic audience while Glier made the album. “I felt a tremendous amount of comfort talking to the birds,” he says “I’d check in with them regularly to see how they thought things were going so far.”
Birds is Glier’s fifth album, and the latest entry in a burgeoning career that has included a Grammy nomination and a pair of Independent Music Awards while touring with artists including Ani DiFranco and Ryan Adams.
The songs on Birds range from personal to political, and are bound together by the awareness that our world is a fragile place that is all the more magical for it. Glier makes that point on a large scale with “Water on Fire,” a terse, grinding tune that opens with a cynical reworking of a Ray Charles lyric as Glier uses fracking to dig into the false equivalence between freedom and capitalism. “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” has a more visceral, intimate approach: the soulful slow jam, full of warm guitars and multi-tracked vocals, is about the death of Glier’s autistic brother.
Together, those songs represent the opposite poles of Birds. “I was really trying to explore connections on this record,” Glier says. Among those connections is the one between race and the criminal justice system on “Justice for All,” a raw chain-gang stomp that sounds almost like an old field recording. “Like I Do” takes a more oblique tack, drawing out feelings of anger through the use of noisy synthesizers and fuzzed-out bass pads.
The songs on Birds reflect a scope of sound and style: the title track is lush and & orchestral, for example, while “Too Much Water” pairs Glier’s voice and piano with subtle accompaniment from horns, for a classic, elegant feel that calls to mind Harry Nilsson in the early ’70s. “People Like Us” is jaunty and up-tempo, while the trebly guitar arpeggios and moaning saxophone on “Just Because I Can” sound like a sock-hop slow dance, until you zero in on lyrics delivered by a narrator who dynamites his domestic bliss simply for the power trip. Conflict. Contradiction.