What Bird
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What Bird

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What Bird is Nashville-based duo Julia Harrison and Winston Harrison. If you consider yourself a voice snob who holds Imogen Heap, Sarah McLachlan, Sinead O'Connor, Bjork, and Liz Frazer from the Cocteau Twins up as the vocal bar, then you should add Julia Harrison of What Bird to your short list.

Many will recognize Winston Harrison as an integral member (bass) of The Gabe Dixon Band. Indeed, while Winston toured with GDB, Julia attended graduate school at CalArts in Valencia, CA. According to What Bird, "The 30 mile drive from Los Angeles to CalArts and back every day provided a backdrop for Julia's songwriting. Her late night drives through the winding and mountainous freeways led the way to her collaboration with Winston."

Good Night, Good Riddance is immediately comparable to Frou Frou and Sarah McLachlin. Organically electric in production, the record is filled with ambient guitars, loops, and a slew of other instruments played by a handful of Nashville's A-list indie musicians and producers including Ian Fitchuk, Matt Glassmeyer, and Joe Stark to name just a few. Julia's lyrics read like journal entries rather than a rhyming game, and although she runs the risk of sounding like a novice songwriter as a result, her vocals are so authentically angelic that each song pulls you into her meditative world. The record has eleven songs, one of which is a judicious cover of "Under the Milky Way." These songs contain subtle hooks—they're addictive without being annoying. The result is an outstanding high pop record that will be well-received by the most discriminating audiences.

Good Night, Good Riddance is yet another brilliant project to emerge virtually out of nowhere from Nashville-based artists, as this writer is not aware of any What Bird performances having occurred to date. This forthcoming full-length debut, however, will no doubt catapult What Bird to the top of the indie class, with a tour to follow.

— Vincent Wynne, July 22, 2008 - Listennashville.com


“Late night driving music” means different things to different folks.

Some prefer nuclear-powered subwoofers on their Toyota, to really let people know that they’re into Tech N9ne.
Others enjoy a good drive-by “Panama”-ing of the old folks home/neighborhood.
Then there’s the school of What Bird: those who hear, in touring fluorescent-bathed city lanes and pitch black country roads, something “dark, kinetic, peaceful, yet unsettling.”
Bereft of chart-topping irritants like pitch correction or overcompression, this earthy acoustic/electronic duo, comprised of Julia Harrison and Winston Harrison, rushes into the brain with subtlety. Electronic elements beef up Julia’s already worldly vocals, guitar and flute playing. Dosed with simple, rhythmically satisfying drumwork, What Bird birth a brand of folky indie rock which is soothing, yet propulsive at the same time, coasting, like a car and its human driver might, down a freeway.
Restrained performances are integral to the record—a pop record, at its core. Sparse, but right-on-the-money instrumentation is slave to Julia’s vocal melodies. The dribbles of bouncy guitar and plunky, programmed drums which open “Highway Song” conjure a blur of white and yellow stripes. “Have you ever known a pure heart?” Julia’s swelling-to-burst, bittersweet chorus asks. Good Night, Good Riddance maintains this dark, moody, rolling pace for most of its runtime, but does go a tad more upbeat (at least musically) with “Fallen Things” and its plinks of warm Rhodes piano.
Then there’s the immediate eyebrow and bar raiser of deciding to cover “Under the Milky Way.” Donnie Darko fans will be well-aware of the original The Church song’s hypnotic and haunting pull. Given the past track record of piss poor covers of this tune, I wasn’t expecting much. But although What Bird obviously forego the smoky, hypnotic baritone vocals of the original, and slow and soften it to their own ends, their rendition is every bit as empyrean and otherworldly (albeit lacking the stardiving synth-bagpipe solo…). Another grand slam for the duo from Nashville.
Sometimes it’s hard to locate genuine breaths of fresh air, but these folks qualify. Fans of everyone from Sheryl Crow to Everything But the Girl can find something to like here, and graveyard shift commuter-poets will find their car stereos have found a new best friend in Good Night, Good Riddance. On their promise of perfect late-night driving music, What Bird deliver. - Three Star Smash


Discography

What bird has just finished it's first release "Good Night, Good Riddance".

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Bio

What Bird is Julia Harrison and Winston Harrison. The Nashville, TN duo describe their music as “late-night driving music,” as they are most influenced by the dark, kinetic, peaceful, yet unsettling feeling of a late-night drive. Musically this translates to combining acoustic and electronic elements together with a dynamic rhythmic pulse to create a mesmerizing sound.

Winston and Julia met as students at the University of Miami, where Winston studied jazz bass and Julia studied classical flute. After college, Winston toured with the Gabe Dixon Band while Julia attended graduate school at CalArts in Valencia, CA. The 30-mile drive from Los Angeles to CalArts and back every day provided a backdrop for Julia’s songwriting. Her late night drives through the winding and mountainous freeways lead the way to her collaboration with Winston, who had begun writing and recording ambient and IDM music under the name Fuzzmuzz. Julia and Winston found they shared a similar musical sensibility and formed What Bird.

What Bird recently released their debut album Good Night, Good Riddance to rave regional reviews. Listen Nashville said: “Good night, Good Riddance is yet another brilliant project to emerge virtually out of nowhere from Nashville-based artists. The forthcoming full-length debut will no doubt catapult What Bird to the top of the indie class. These songs contain subtle hooks that are addictive without being annoying. The result is an outstanding high pop record that will be well-received by the most discriminating audiences.”