Some artists remind you instantly of their inspirations. Some artists work too hard to hide them. Some artists are so unique they are drowning flies in the milk of their individuality. And some bands are so deeply rooted to their journey, so aware of it, so attuned that you are left wondering how that fire has been hidden under an indie bushel for over ten years. But then, maybe that is not a mystery at all. The masses have never been known for diving deeply into the realms of the independent spirit. They leave it there, like diamonds in the depths, misunderstood and questioned, hiding in the dark. Waiting to be found. In many ways Pete and Andrea Connolly, Birds + Arrows, are the artistic, musical, spiritual and cultural historians of that journey.
The fiery, phoenix-fury of their revolutionary souls is charted in their departure from folk rock and their Chapel Hill, North Carolina home to land, reborn, free, and wide awake in the desert of Tucson, Arizona. I first saw the band at Club Congress, opening for the legendary Sidewinders at their Witchdoctor Anniversary show. Andrea blew me away immediately with her wild sense of fashion, and her absolutely fearless voice. She screamed. She howled. And the lady can play that guitar. Good Night! I saw that show with the notorious Bubba Whicker of Phoenix, and we both bought the band’s seventh full length album, born under the southwestern desert sun of my hometown. Arbitrary Magic. When that needle first hits the record, Overloaded comes out of those speakers with this tone and energy that is familiar, but fiercely not, and you are sucked into the crystal constellations mapped in the spirit of these songs. The opening track holds nothing back with the tragic “the country doesn’t want me so I’m packing it in, stacking it high, I’ve tied it all down… overloaded…. The rich people stare at the overstuffed bear…” Who is this gal? Is she an immigrant, fleeing the land of the free down the I-10? Is she a transplant cruising into the southwest and already judged as foreign? Who are Birds + Arrows? Fearless. This – your first barbaric yawp in the desert? Fearless.
The needle rides the groove of No Hand Me Downs, and capitalism. Necessity. Wants. Desires. Greed. Slide like sweet fuzzy honey from those guitar riffs like a girl who sings “I wish that every girl could ever want hand-me-downs baby should have given em to charity all i got on me a few ragged tee’s some worn out pants and…. Ohhhh ahhhhh ohhhh ahhhhhh let’s go, scream….. And that guitar whips you into the passion of a fiery individual spirit always on the wrong side of the fence from a private pool, who no longer cares. She is free.
She is Adrift…. “With the wind in her sails who can’t tell right from wrong, come on over girl make everything alright, she’s been working till shes tired… she’s been pushing it too hard…. She is down to the wire…. In the doldrums and set adrift” and then Pete, lends his melodious voice to the bridge, I know you’re tired…. And right now you’re afraid…. I know sometimes you think we’re crazy from those choices that we made…. But I can hold you“.
And those opening songs, those three songs, tell you a story. A story of love. A story of inspiration. A story of spiritual journey and discovery.
But the first side of Arbitrary Magic still has rings on the vinyl, and Stay Down… does not let you wriggle free from the spell the displaced duo is spinning. The song starts off almost like a throwback to the Carolinas of the past, if it was fuzzy and plugged in, and Andrea brings the blues and the rock n roll and the power of that vocal harmonizing with Pete from behind the drum kit…. “Stay Down…. Stay Down, Don’t you move…. Stand your Ground…. Feel the Power Shift and Grove“. And you aren’t moving. You are feeling that vibe. And you are not going anywhere.
But that unquestioning, I know myself, do you know you confidence just keeps on coming, all the way through the country, twangy, steel guitar pining that rips into a rocking guitar beat with a voice that could make Linda Rondstat smile “your a vintage girl….. It is all just wearing me out….. But I wanted to look good for you“ of All Souls Sell Out to the needle spinning soundless at the label. And the only emotional relief you get, from the poetry, from the haunting self reflection of those lyrics, is the distance you walk to turn the lavender vinyl over to Side B. Where the crisp, clean guitar tone thrills out of the speakers and that haunting voice that has spellbound you, comes right back with those troubling thoughts…. “I guess I Guess I don’t know why I hung you out to dry or why oh why we go the distance that we drive“….. And you are with this couple, who like their website says, has left the honeymoon of North Carolina behind, and driven the distance to the sun and the cactus…. To set their souls on fire. San Jacinto is a movingly, original tribute to the beautiful song of a twisted and savagely scarred past, marked across the land that the Birds +Arrows have just traveled.
Their Animatronic Hearts are pure when they ask “why some people fly and some people can’t” over the tone of a simly gentle acoustic guitar that might fool you into thinking this song is a beer run. It is not. It is the poignant introspection of the perfect ending back on your feet…. shuffling through the dust.
And the magic they weave is real. And this Arizona Native…. Welcomes the power of their righteous free fury to the desert with open arms. Someone asked me once, Ryan do you ever just light someone up? Just let em have it? Sure…. But why would I write about it…. Or expect you to want to listen to it. Do Not Pass on Arbitrary Magic. This album is a Vortex. Just ask Bubba. #SupportSmallBusiness #azindie #Rocklocal