May 25, 2005

His Name is Alive "summer bird"

I have to admit, I’m starting to become a fan of artists who use the Internet to release downloadable records for their fans, and I’m extremely happy when the artists or bands are ones I happen to love. I’ve loved His Name is Alive for many years now, and I spent a small fortune (for a college student, that is) on buying anything His Name Is Alive-related, but I have to say, their latest single, the free, downloadable Summer Bird EP, is simply their best material in years. His Name Is Alive mastermind War Defever is in fine form, and these four songs capture his recent musical predilections, as well as revisiting vintage sound that reminds a lot of the Fort Lake/Universal Frequencies-era, and the title track, “Summer Bird,” is the first single off of the promised new His Name is Alive album, and if this track’s any indication, the album’s going to be wonderful.

It starts off with a bit of a beat, tempered with Defever’s distinctive piano sound, and then it turns into a girl-sung Seventies-era number (think Melanie) that’s reminiscent of the Nice Day EP, and it’s sung by…Karin Oliver? Could she be back in the HNIA fold? That would be amazing! (I think it’s Erika Hoffman, but the two voices are quite similar.) The song is sweet, but it’s a deep little love song that references Pol Pot and the US/Vietnam situation of the early 1970s. “Here Forever Always,” is a fun little new-wave number that finds Defever and company playing around with synths and dance grooves, and it’s a jaunty little song that tempers a fast beat with Home Is In Your Head-style melancholy dirge vocals; in fact, I’m sure I’ve heard this song before, but I can’t place it offhand. The third song, “Last Summer,” is a grooving jazz instrumental that’s not unlike mid-period John Coltrane, and it shows the depths of Defever’s musical range. The final number, “Get Your Curse,” is an epic, seven-minute number that finds His Name is Alive going for a Bacharach-meets-20/20-era Beach Boys vibe that’s enrapturing and beautiful; the song fades at the halfway-mark and then fades into a gorgeous, Brian Eno-esque ambient sequence.

Summer Bird is gorgeous; simply, totally and utterly gorgeous. For those who have loved His Name is Alive for the past fifteen years, this EP’s not much of a surprise; for those who have never experienced the genius of Defever and the magic of this little band from Livonia, then this record will prove to be an excellent introduction to the band, as well as making their new album something worth waiting for.

--Joseph Kyle

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