Sometimes you have to take an unpopular stance, though it’s nice when you have a good friend standing unpopularly with you. My buddy Coyle and I are both staunch supporters of the most divisive song in the entirety of the My Morning Jacket catalog. That’s right, Coyle and I are proud members of team “Highly Suspicious.” I’m pretty sure we both like it for the same reason, too — the hilarious, over-the-top serious way Carl Broemel, co-lead guitarist and backup singer to Jim James, delivers the song’s title lyrics. Watch the band performing the song on Austin City Limits to see what I mean…
How can you not love that? It falls in some strange netherworld between parody and badassery, and ever since the first time I saw a video of “Highly Suspicious” being staged, I’ve watched Broemel with an added sense of enjoyment. That’s why I was so elated when the wonderful people at Daytrotter recently posted a session that finds Broemel performing 4 of his own songs that I had no idea existed, all of which can be found on an album he released last year called All Birds Say. I dove into the record as soon as I could, and it didn’t take long to learn that Broemel is as gifted at writing solo material as he is at the guitar-thrashing, falsetto-floating duties he executes so expertly as a member of My Morning Jacket. All Birds Say is a mellow record to be sure, but there’s a great deal going on in these largely down-tempo songs worth noting, including a fascinating relationship between theme and substance. Many of the songs deal with the idea of spare time, surely a commodity when you’re part of an overwhelmingly successful band, with titles like “Sunday Drivers” and “Retired,” and lyrics like “I was waiting for the moment to be perfectly clear, when the world would stop and let me catch up,” and “save an hour for yourself.” Images like these appear throughout, and pair perfectly with the choice of tempo and mood. Too perfectly, in fact. That’s what’s most interesting about All Birds Say — it’s a leisurely sounding record about trying to find time for leisure, which, as any busy person can attest, is hard work. After doing some research, I wasn’t surprised to find that he recorded the album one song at a time, whenever he had an opportunity, over the course of 4 or 5 years, so it’s no wonder he’s focused on those elusive spare moments. Even his guitar work reflects this odd coupling of efficiency and relaxation. “Questions” features a walkdown that sounds so breezy on the surface it could have followed a drunk down the street in an old Disney cartoon, but it includes just about every single in-between note that particular scale can hold. So loose, yet so tight at the same time. And these extra, in-between notes are everywhere on All Birds Say. I’m enjoying the album so much I can’t decide which song to recommend, so I’m including performance videos of three of my favorites — “Questions,” “Carried Away,” and “Heaven Knows,” where he pushes the leisure theme even further by playing the song on an autoharp in the middle of a round of golf. Check out these three great songs below, his Daytrotter session here (you’re a member already, right?), and buy All Birds Say here.
Carl Broemel — “Questions“
Carl Broemel — “Carried Away“
Carl Broemel — “Heaven Knows“