Nearly three years ago my roommate introduced me to Brooklyn-based band Whale Belly. At the time I was planning a concert and she suggested they’d make an excellent addition to my lineup and she was right. I hosted a show at the now extinct Brooklyn venue Southpaw and the band won over the crowd and booking agents.
Last year I interviewed Whale Belly for CBS New York as they were promoting their debut album …the Smile at the End of the Slope. A year later, the band are back with their sophomore follow-up I Was Once A Bird which embodies 10 excellent tracks fueled with emotions we can all relate to: heartbreak, anxiety and the uncertainty life often brings.
Frontman Todd Bogin’s vocals exude a distinct urgency throughout I Was Once A Bird while spot-on string accompaniment, quirky guitar riffs and ear-grabbing percussion captivate.
I Was Once A Bird begins with memorable guitar and intriguing violin parts on “Bubbles In My Blood.” By the track’s end, foot-stomping rhythms, soaring music and Bogin’s catchy vocals beg all to keep listening. “Bubbles In My Blood” segues seamlessly into “Mette By the Canal” with soaring violin and delicately strummed acoustic guitar.
While the music accompaniment impresses on the LP, it’s the emotion-fueled tracks that show Whale Belly’s power. For example, the standout “Nervous Breakdown” was inspired by actual events Bogin faced while shopping at IKEA.
“I’m a very anxious person and I do really bad in crowded public spaces,” he explained. “I had a freak-out in IKEA because I went there on a Saturday before Christmas and it was so insane. I got lost, I couldn’t find who I was with, I couldn’t find the exit and I literally ran home. It’s a lighthearted song but if you listen to the lyrics and the music, it’s a very stressful song. It’s hard to listen to for me because it’s so intense.”
The listener can feel the angst with aggressive violin and guitar parts throughout the song.
Meanwhile, Bogin lays it all out on the line on heart-wrenching album closer “Long Drawn.”
“I’m getting used to being the lonely guy/Now that I don’t have you by my side/Enjoy my company and my own thoughts…You didn’t love me like I loved you,” Bogin sings.
“The next album will have the aesthetic of Whale Belly itself but make a point of transitions in life and change,” Bogin told me last year.
He wasn’t lying.
Download I Was Once A Bird here and be sure to catch Whale Belly live in New York tonight at Mercury Lounge.