Review: Progressive indie suite succeeds in every way

Many albums stretch on for too long. Without even bothering to set expectations through marketing the record as a double album, a record may continue on for well over an hour, with upwards of fourteen songs that all feel the need to have an unnecessary bridge two and a half minutes into every track. They’re homogenous and annoying. It may make listeners happy to receive seventy minutes of content for their ten dollar price tag, but if one consumes an absurd amount of music, via streaming or online video or by actually possessing disposable income, these longer albums can become quite a hindrance, and even a deterrent, from continuing. Why listen to thirteen interchangeable tracks when there are experiences that flow together, have a concept, and better yet, don’t overstay their welcome.

The self-titled debut album, The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast, is a 33 minute progressive-indie experience that draws inspiration from the account describes in the Book of Revelation. It was released on June 6th, 2015, as a project that was recorded by independent musicians Micah Jayne, Tyler Ringer, and Jeremy Ray. It utilizes a large assortment of instruments (piano, guitar, spoons, harps, and glockenspiels – to name a few) to make up surprisingly complicated arrangements that are disguised as beautiful, indie melodies. To illustrate this point, Micah Jayne said on his blog that for four years he “…spent time on and off re-programming instruments, mixing, and mastering. These are by far the largest songs I’ve worked on, with some songs containing as many as 94 tracks.” Each of the seven tracks on the album features unique artwork lifted from the medieval French tapestry the Tapisserie de l’Apocalypse.

The record follows the story of the apocalypse and as such as a track for every year of the seven year conflict with the antichrist. Two of these, “Black Marble (Year 1)” and “Interim (Year 6)”, are brief instrumental excursions that both crescendo from brilliantly simple pieces into ensemble-laden displays that lead into the progressive suites that follow. The remaining five tracks tell the story of the album, flowing together without any time gap between songs. Listeners will learn of the confusion of the boy – humanity – and how this uncertainty leads to the seduction of man by the Beast. Despite the story being clearly religiously influenced, it does not consume one’s attention. I listened to the album for well over a month before I realized that the story was a description of man’s last days. This album isn’t Christian rock and doesn’t confine itself to that niche. The story is merely a theatrical, self-indulgent exercise that uses classic prog influences; in the same way that Rush’s “Cygnus X-1” song series isn’t an advertisement for Roman theology.

As mentioned earlier, the tracks are deceptively simple. The lush arrangements do nothing to subtract from the catchy, hypnotic lyrics that repeats in mind. “I, the Lonely Island (Year 4)”, “Suns of Zion (Year 5)”, and “Divine Melodies (Year 7)” all feature as stand-out tracks that always have new features to discover and remain amazing throughout the entire listen. The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast contains lyrical call-backs throughout the record; by the time the final track begins you already know exactly how to sing along.

Now, it may seem ridiculous to list nearly half the album as stand-out tracks – almost as ridiculous as this review containing no criticism of the work. I can criticize some of my favorite albums, like Weezer’s Pinkerton and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, easily. Pointing out areas of improvement for this record proves to be troubling for me. There isn’t anything that I would change. I even put off writing this review for over half a year, listening again and again, in an attempt to have an opinion that would be more fleshed out. That never happened. The Boy, the Bird, & the Beast is quite simply one of the greatest works of art I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never shown this album to anyone and received a negative response. I couldn’t imagine how one could be given, if you listen with intent and the attention that it deserves. It is catchy, while remaining complex and interesting. It is melodic, while containing explosions of sound and hard riffs. It has deeper meaning, without being pretentious or taking itself too seriously.

The artist’s graciously allow listeners to download the album for free via Bandcamp’s Name Your Price function.