Nate Kinsella’s project – the new Birthmark CD

Posted: August 19, 2012 in New Indie Music
Birthmark
Antibodies
Polyvinyl Records, 2012
Review by Kent Manthie
The third full-length CD by Birthmark, Nate Kinsella’s solo project, entitled Antibodies is out now, on Polyvinyl Records.
Antibodies is such a beautiful album, you can tell that Nate went through a lot work in the studio, making everything sound so perfect; it’s an album that will both mesmerize you and make you think at the same time. The ethereal, sedate music is juxtaposed by melancholy lyrics written by a man who “isn’t comfortable in his own skin”.
The opening track, “Stuck”, starts out with a mélange of sounds – vibraphone, baritone sax (or bassoon?), oboe, etc – that reminded me of the eclectic orchestrations of Frank Zappa – but then straightens out into a more harmonious and soft song that is quiet, laid back but at the same time there’s a perkiness to it, an upbeat tempo with catchy hooks and that is what makes it work so well – while the lyrics may be introspective, coming from a perspective and the person doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror, it, at least, has the catchy tune which backs it up; in other words, the songs are not all dirge-like. For example, “Stuck” is a song that I, for one, can relate to, being somewhat stuck myself – in different ways: stuck in geographical terms as well as metaphorically. To quote a line from the song that caught my ear, “…I’m stuck/to the ones I love/I’m stuck/with the occasional suicidal thought…” When I heard that, I thought “now THERE’s a song that is for me”. I too, sometimes, “Wish I didn’t have a name” and I “Wish I could get lost” – so that is definitely one cut that will stick in my head.
The things Nate expresses on Antibodies probably touch many people out there. Not everyone is a carefree, independently wealthy, constantly happy person. One thing I read that he said was that he tries to present himself as a “positive person in normal, everyday life” but underneath that façade there lurk thoughts of death, regret, guilt, remorse “and everything in between”.
I mentioned that the songs are (or mostly) played in an “uptempo” way. Well, yes, that is true, but what makes Antibodies so unique is the eclectic musical arrangements: for instance, it’s not your average rock ‘n’ roll album – meaning: guitar, bass, drums (and sometimes keyboards). This isn’t like that – Antibodies has a full range of instrumentation – vibraphones, violins, cellos and clarinets – all played by Kinsella. He had a little help from some session musicians – maybe to help out on bass, drums, guitar and keyboards (?) But, in the end, it’s basically Nate’s album – he is the songwriter and the one who arranged it all. If he played all the aforementioned instruments, then he must’ve had a hand in the more traditional things, like guitar, bass & drums, etc.
The title of the album: Antibodies, after one listens to the album, takes on a whole different meaning. As opposed to the real meaning of the word – what develops when the human body gets a virus or infection: the immune system fights it off and at the same time makes “copies” of the pathogen so as to be able to more easily fight it if it comes back in the future (that’s why we keep getting the flu or a cold every year or two: influenza and the various variants of cold viruses mutate every year or so, not much, but just enough for the body to not be completely resistant to it, although the similarities that are there makes the antibodies work to help kill it off – “Antibodies” comes across (at least to me) as a pun of sorts, in that Nate’s use of the word reflects the fact that he’s often not comfortable in his own skin, in other words, the title’s meaning changes in a way that’s meant to come off as trying to convey the message of Anti-body: a self-loathing that brings desperation to the fore and for a poet or songwriter, these feelings can be used effectively to fancifully write them down and use metaphors, etc , to express one’s pain and suffering. This doesn’t mean the artist is being insincere, au contraire, he is being very sincere and, as a songwriter in this case, using his talents in a therapeutic way, getting the message out that “this is how I feel” and hoping that there will be people out there who not only appreciate the music but can identify with the underlying feelings of hopelessness and melancholia.
On “Shake Hands” the “backwards” string section was perfected and composed by Kinsella and to make it even more glorious, he brought in a real string quartet to aid in the recording. The result is a blissful tune. “Pacifist Manifesto” is another one that features strings and is very brilliant and soothing. The next tune, “Please Go Away” changes tempo a little – it picks things up a little: there’s a heavier beat on it, more guitar and bass on it. The song is very good. It’s as if he is just fed up with whomever it is he is singing to – he just wants them to “please go away”. No apologies, no French fried explanation, just get out of here, leave me alone. But it’s back to the melancholia again with “You Lighten Me Up”: “I get so tired of hearing my own voice…”
Then, on “Your Imperfections”, Kinsella tries to put his wife up on a pedestal of sorts, when he compares her ‘imperfections’ to his, ‘bigger, badder” faults, which may or may not be true, but is a true expression of love.
The final track is “Big Man”. This is one of the most brilliant tracks on Antibodies – it is expressive, a bit of anger seeps out. A good example of his fiery lyrics on here would be “There is no god/And the only thing real to me/is that you’re the man”. It sounds as if he’s trying to cut down to size someone who would otherwise be a self-important megalomaniac. But, the music stays quiet, it’s a quiet, low-key song with just a couple instruments, a guitar and his plaintive voice, with a chorus of “OOHS” toward the end.
In the final analysis, I must say that I am very impressed with Birthmark, Nate and his new album, Antibodies. It is only 34 minutes long, with 8 tracks on it, but it still, somehow, feels complete, as if this is all he needed to say on this CD at this time. If you’re a fan of his cousin Tim Kinsella’s band, Joan of Arc or other cousin Mike, who is a sometime member of JOA and has his own thing going with Owen, then you’ll be happy to know that Birthmark is not unlike the others in that Nate too, goes his own way and doesn’t follow any trend or path. He just follows his muse and writes down what comes into his mind. Bravo! –KM
Birthmark<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Antibodies<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Polyvinyl Records, 2012<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Review by Kent Manthie</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>    The third full-length CD by Birthmark, Nate Kinsella’s solo project, entitled Antibodies is out now, on Polyvinyl Records.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Antibodies is such a beautiful album, you can tell that Nate went through a lot work in the studio, making everything sound so perfect; it’s an album that will both mesmerize you and make you think at the same time.  The ethereal, sedate music is juxtaposed by melancholy lyrics written by a man who “isn’t comfortable in his own skin”.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    The opening track, “Stuck”, starts out with a mélange of sounds – vibraphone, baritone sax (or bassoon?), oboe, etc – that reminded me of the eclectic orchestrations of Frank Zappa – but then straightens out into a more harmonious and soft song that is quiet, laid back but at the same time there’s a perkiness to it, an upbeat tempo with catchy hooks and that is what makes it work so well – while the lyrics may be introspective, coming from a perspective and the person doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror, it, at least, has the catchy tune which backs it up; in other words, the songs are not all dirge-like.  For example, “Stuck” is a song that I, for one, can relate to, being somewhat stuck myself – in different ways:  stuck in geographical terms as well as metaphorically.  To quote a line from the song that caught my ear, “…I’m stuck/to the ones I love/I’m stuck/with the occasional suicidal thought…”  When I heard that, I thought “now THERE’s a song that is for me”.  I too, sometimes, “Wish I didn’t have a name” and I “Wish I could get lost” – so that is definitely one cut that will stick in my head.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    The things Nate expresses on Antibodies probably touch many people out there.  Not everyone is a carefree, independently wealthy, constantly happy person.  One thing I read that he said was that he tries to present himself as a “positive person in normal, everyday life” but underneath that façade there lurk thoughts of death, regret, guilt, remorse “and everything in between”.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    I mentioned that the songs are (or mostly) played in an “uptempo” way.  Well, yes, that is true, but what makes Antibodies so unique is the eclectic musical arrangements:  for instance, it’s not your average rock ‘n’ roll album – meaning:  guitar, bass, drums (and sometimes keyboards).  This isn’t like that – Antibodies has a full range of instrumentation – vibraphones, violins, cellos and clarinets – all played by Kinsella.  He had a little help from some session musicians – maybe to help out on bass, drums, guitar and keyboards (?)  But, in the end, it’s basically Nate’s album – he is the songwriter and the one who arranged it all.  If he played all the aforementioned instruments, then he must’ve had a hand in the more traditional things, like guitar, bass & drums, etc.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    The title of the album:  Antibodies, after one listens to the album, takes on a whole different meaning.  As opposed to the real meaning of the word – what develops when the human body gets a virus or infection:   the immune system fights it off and at the same time makes “copies” of the pathogen so as to be able to more easily fight it if it comes back in the future (that’s why we keep getting the flu or a cold every year or two:   influenza and the various variants of cold viruses mutate every year or so, not much, but just enough for the body to not be completely resistant to it, although the similarities that are there makes the antibodies work to help kill it off  -  “Antibodies” comes across (at least to me) as a pun of sorts, in that Nate’s use of the word reflects the fact that he’s often not comfortable in his own skin, in other words, the title’s meaning changes in a way that’s meant to come off as trying to convey the message of Anti-body:  a self-loathing that brings desperation to the fore and for a poet or songwriter, these feelings can be used effectively to fancifully write them down and use metaphors, etc , to express one’s pain and suffering.   This doesn’t mean the artist is being insincere, au contraire, he is being very sincere and, as a songwriter in this case, using his talents in a therapeutic way, getting the message out that “this is how I feel” and hoping that there will be people out there who not only appreciate the music but can identify with the underlying feelings of hopelessness and melancholia.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    On “Shake Hands” the “backwards” string section was perfected and composed by Kinsella and to make it even more glorious, he brought in a real string quartet to aid in the recording.  The result is a blissful tune.  “Pacifist Manifesto” is another one that features strings and is very brilliant and soothing.  The next tune, “Please Go Away” changes tempo a little – it picks things up a little:  there’s a heavier beat on it, more guitar and bass on it.  The song is very good.  It’s as if he is just fed up with whomever it is he is singing to – he just wants them to “please go away”.  No apologies, no French fried explanation, just get out of here, leave me alone.   But it’s back to the melancholia again with “You Lighten Me Up”:  “I get so tired of hearing my own voice…”<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    Then, on “Your Imperfections”, Kinsella tries to put his wife up on a pedestal of sorts, when he compares her “imperfections” to his, more major faults, which may or may not be true, but is a true expression of love.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    The final track is “Big Man”.  This is one of the most brilliant tracks on Antibodies – it is expressive, a bit of anger seeps out.  A good example of his fiery lyrics on here would be “There is no god/And the only thing real to me/is that you’re the man”.  It sounds as if he’s trying to cut down to size someone who would otherwise be a self-important megalomaniac.  But, the music stays quiet, it’s a quiet, low-key song with just a couple instruments, a guitar and his plaintive voice, with a chorus of “OOHS” toward the end.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
    In the final analysis, I must say that I am very impressed with Birthmark, Nate and his new album, Antibodies.  It is only 34 minutes long, with 8 tracks on it, but it still, somehow, feels complete, as if this is all he needed to say on this CD at this time.  If you’re a fan of his cousin Tim Kinsella’s band, Joan of Arc or other cousin Mike, who is a sometime member of JOA and has his own thing going with Owen, then you’ll be happy to know that Birthmark is not unlike the others in that Nate too, goes his own way and doesn’t follow any trend or path.  He just follows his muse and writes down what comes into his mind.  Bravo!  -KM
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