Fables and Fields Green from Seattle-based Blackbird Orchestra is a CD that shimmers with a nostalgia for something I can’t quite express. Listening to this CD is like listening to the perfect soundtrack for an idealized John Hughes movie about sensitive-yet-cynical hopeless romantics.
There’s no sarcasm in that previous paragraph. The guitar-anchored sound of Blackbird Orchestra alone would be enough to fill me with wistful nostalgic glee for a time when “alternative” music had guitars, strong melodies, and no rage-filled screaming OR tweedly-beep keyboards. There are many bands nowadays who aren’t much more than than a laundry list of their influences; the most fun in listening is to play the game of “spot the influence”. But Blackbird Orchestra neatly sidestep that pitfall; they take the nostalgic recognition they evoke and go on to craft something entirely new with it. Something with guitars, soaring vocals, and a sense that they’re creating these songs because they want to, not because they need to live up to some sort of prefab “image”.
For me, the standout tracks on Fables And Fields Green are “Blood And Earth”, “Hypatia”, and “Hollowland”. Those are the songs that have woven themselves into part of my brain, the songs I find myself humming as I try and drift off to sleep.
I tend to relate to music as a soundtrack for emotions and for movies that might not exist, which is why I find myself so fond of Blackbird Orchestra. “Hollowland” is a song for walking around by yourself on a blustery autumn day, scrunching through the fallen leaves and trying to decide what you want to do with yourself, while the sweeping guitars and vocals match your feelings of yearning for something; you just haven’t quite figured out what it is yet. “Hollowland” has a sense of cheerful melancholy to it, the feeling that what you really want is just around that next corner, just past those spindly, skeletal trees.
“Hypatia”, on the other hand, is the sort of song that all of us of a Certain Age (or generation of Goth) would have expected to hear in our local Goth club during the early part of the evening. Not one that you would necessarily feel compelled to dance to, but that sort of soaring sonic wall that set the mood as you stood at the bar purchasing your first drink of the night, looking around to see what new or familiar faces were out. Jangling rhythm guitar and a strong drum line getting you in the mood for a night of exploration and gossip, while the melody winds your nerves up to a state of pleasurable anticipation.
“Blood And Earth” is the song I find myself going back to repeatedly. But that may have something to do with the fact that I can hear it as the song being played over an opening credits montage for a movie; that comment I made about this CD being the perfect soundtrack for an idealized John Hughes movie is proven the most with this song. “Blood And Earth” sounds like the result of a secret collaboration between The Psychedelic Furs and The Cure, with each verse pulling you by the hand to the chorus.
So yes, I very much like Blackbird Orchestra. I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform live once, and am hoping to catch more shows by them in the future. If you’re someone who enjoys the bittersweet feelings of happy nostalgia for things that haven’t actually happened, then Fables And Fields Green is what you’ve been hoping to find.