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Thanks to Rolling Stone magazine, I cannot lose the description that the popular publication made of Futurebirds, as a country-music act to catch at this year’s SXSW. A must-see act? For sure. Country-music band? Not exactly. Awesome indie-rock band with a southern-rock slant? Absolutely.
But credit to Rolling Stone for acknowledging how great the sextet from Athens, Georgia. Their debut album Hampton’s Lullaby introduced us to their southern-rock flair that made them a regional gem in the southern US. Their splendid sophomore record Baba Yaga further entrenched the band as one of the south’s emerging bands, following in the footsteps of My Morning Jacket with their psych-tinged indie-rock, blistering guitar solos, and frenetic live shows.
Despite the accolades, success and stardom, however, continue to elude Futurebirds. That may change with their third album, Hotel Parties. Unlike Baba Yaga which was more cryptic in its title (Baba Yaga is a monster from Slavic folklore while the album focused on the ups and downs of several relationships), Hotel Parties is more straightforward in its meaning – life of a young band that is constantly on the road. The album, however, isn’t so much about the exploits and experiences but rather the separation from reality, friends, and family by the repeated travels from coast-to-coast and back. This isolation could lead to the believing one is invincible, which is depicted on the swaggering southern-rocker “twentyseven”; feelings of loneliness, as sung on “Paranoia Letters”; or separation and anxiety revealed on the delirious, psychedelic, southern-rock tune “Xmas Drags”.
“Hotel Parties” rolls up all these feelings into one. This burner of a rock tune that echoes of a young Drive-by Truckers begins with a recollection of celebrating July 4th in Toronto, but it’s just one of many parties that the band has had in a hotel. However, it’s not exactly the type of parties you would have seen on Almost Famous and, yes, a band could tire of them. And a band could also tire of chasing the dream of achieving rock stardom at the expense of their relationships. The brilliant slow-rocker “Rodeo” describes the dilemma that many musicians face, especially a band like Futurebirds who has been on the endless highways for close to five years.
The neverending movement also changes relationships, which are emphasized on the dreamy “Paper Tongues”, the midtempo dream “Slow Talkerz”, and the anthemic and wildly infectious “Deadbeat Hits”. And with any relationship and distance apart, there is sorrow and remorse. On the superb finale, “Hard As You Like”, the band channels Tennessee Fire-era MMJ – a slow-building burner that hits the emotional and mind-blowing strings. The song is truly epic.
For a band that once upon a time had a hard time finding a label to release its records to now being exulted by the likes of Rolling Stone, Futurebirds will soon be more than a hidden gem. For long-time fans, we’ve witnessed them grow musically and as songwriters, and Hotel Parties, an album worthy of consideration among the year’s best, could be their ticket to resolving the dilemma expressed in “Rodeo”.
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FUTUREBIRDS – TOUR DATES
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