“I used to write about finding ways out of the darkness,” says John Brodeur, the New York songwriter and musician behind 2018 NPR Slingshot artist Bird Streets. “Now I’m more interested in exploring and creating a map of that place. In some ways, adopting the Bird Streets name allowed me to write more openly about myself.”
In need of a creative rebirth after years on the music-industry margins, Brodeur reached out to his friend, the producer and multi-instrumentalist Jason Falkner, to suggest they record together. The album yielded by this pairing is both fresh and familiar--a dynamic collection of introspective indie-rock and power-pop that draws liberally on the music of decades past without being bluntly nostalgic, with Brodeur’s voice like an old friend you’re meeting for the first time. The Falkner-produced debut, simply titled "Bird Streets," is available now on Omnivore Recordings.
Over a career that’s spanned nearly 20 years, Brodeur has independently produced and released several solo albums, including 2013’s Little Hopes; fronted rock trios The Suggestions and Maggie Mayday; and worked as a touring and studio musician for scores of acts, including The Morning After Girls, Freedy Johnston, and White Hills.
The name Bird Streets springs from a tony real-estate enclave in the Hollywood hills, which Brodeur first discovered when the recording sessions were first getting underway--but also references his onetime hometown of Albany, New York, which provided the characters and inspiration for some of the album’s 11 songs.
Recorded in Los Angeles between 2014 and 2016, "Bird Streets" (the album) is the product of equal measures tenacity and patience. After a series of setbacks derailed touring plans for his last solo album, Brodeur decamped to L.A. and waited for a hole to open in Falkner’s schedule. Once they were in the studio, the kindred creative spirits hit it off immediately. Working during the short gaps between Falkner’s touring and production commitments, with Brodeur shuffling between coasts for studio dates, the pair had to move quickly, arranging and tracking entire songs in a day or two, sharing instrumental duties throughout.
Lyrically, these songs draw heavily on internal conflict--self-doubt, anxiety, depression--with an overarching feeling of wistful resignation rather than blind optimism. These sometimes difficult themes are delivered via unshakable melodies, a dichotomy that recalls the tightrope walked by artists like Elliott Smith and David Bazan.
In album opener “Carry Me,” Brodeur celebrates “new beginnings and bitter ends” over a bright, bristling bed of electric guitars, then laments the end of a friendship that was once “tighter than Steely Dan” in the eminently catchy “Betting On The Sun.” From there the album jumps between epic power-ballads (“Stop To Breathe”) and British Invasion-flavored power-pop (“Thanks For Calling”), the George Harrison-via-Radiohead melancholy of “Heal” and the grungy jangle of “Until The Crown.”
Now, after years in the making--and decades on the outside looking in--Bird Streets is giving Brodeur a renewed creative energy, and a shot at reaching a larger audience.