he story of Rarebirds isnt very interesting girl plays in band (April Disaster), band breaks up, girl starts new band (Carolynne McNeel Three), band morphs into something different and better (Rarebirds).
But Rarebirds itself? Rarebirds is interesting. When ink is spilled over Carolynne McNeels singing and songwriting, writers are left speculating whats beneath her opaque delivery and idiosyncratic playing. Philadelphia Weekly praised her smoky, twinkling tunes as well above standard singer/songwriter fare, while Philadelphia City Paper called them ethereal [and] folky, with lyrics as abstract and complex as her arrangements. In other words? Shes a tough nut to crack. Thats half the fun of listening to Rarebirds, especially in this age of look-at-me lyrics and painful over-emoting.
Better Than This, a dreamy demo for the bands forthcoming album, shivers with odd sounds while McNeel sings, almost to herself, about writing the same song every night and not quite getting into heaven. Its heavy stuff, and just vague enough for us to know shes not making it up.
McNeel always seems to sing from experience, but its not always so bittersweet. The sprightly When You Sleep brings to life the contagious joy and headiness of love, and the happy-go-lucky subject matter is reflected in her simpler playing and sunnier backing. The gentlemen providing that backing, by the way, are some of Phillys finest Adam Herndon (This Radiant Boy, Run Runner) on bass, Rick Hass (This Radiant Boy) ..s, Dave Dworanczyk (Secession Movement) on drums, and Keith Forsythe (a recent transplant from North Carolina) on guitar.
Two other demos, Sweet Lies and Drowning Happy (both available for listening at www.myspace.com/rarebirds), say it all with their titles. Theres conflict, and like so many fine songwriters before her, McNeel doesnt try to reconcile it or filter things out. Instead, she mines it for all its worth, mashing up a wealth of divergent emotions and skipping backwards and forwards in time to suit the needs of the story.
And thats why we relate to Rarebirds songs the way we do though the creative hooks, vocal prettiness, and fresh-faced instrumentation help even if were not always able to explain why. (Doug Wallen, 4.06)
Rarebirds current line-up includes a smattering of Philly's finest. Lara Manogg (Elastic Medium, The Lara & Joe Show, Grand Fabric) joined the crew in fall of '07 playing keys and singing backing vocals. John Ziga (drums) and Ben Morgan (bass) joined simultaneously in fall of '08. Ben has played in an array of Philadelphia bands including Stucco Lobster Bread Box and Be Careful Little Hands. You may also recognize him as MC Digga. John was an original April Disaster member and has played in True if Destroyed and Rizzo Machine among others. With the exception of Carolynne, Keith Forsythe is currently the longest standing member of Rarebirds. Go Keith!