Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Rachel Stewart is listening to Matt Berry’s Phantom Birds, Jason Sheppard is listening to the War of the Worlds soundtrack, and John Bernardy is listening to podcasts about Shonen Jump.
Matt Berry’s Phantom Birds is the Real Thing
Rachel: I’ve been a Matt Berry since, well, ever. The IT Crowd, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Toast of London, Year of the Rabbit, and What We Do In the Shadows—if Matt Berry’s been in it, I’ve probably seen it. It was actually Darkplace that made me hip to the fact that Berry is also a talented singer as well as top notch comedian. (The cold stone classic “One Track Lover” features both skills, although ’80s synth pop is not his typical style.)
Berry’s discography up to this point has been an eclectic mix of experimental progressive rock (Music for Insomniacs), which even included an entire album of plucky British TV theme covers (Television Themes). (The Doctor Who theme cover is especially rad, man.) His latest offering, entitled Phantom Birds, is a beautiful love letter to 1970s rock, folk and even shades of Americana. Each track flows easily into the next, making one of those perfect on-repeat records for lazy days that drift towards sunsets. Lyrically, the songs are filled with longing, doubt, questions, and goodbyes. In “You Danced All Night,” he reflects on a lover who’s left him:
“When trust is dead
Good will has fled
The whole circus has moved south
Pull my head from the tiger’s mouth
I heard you danced all night
Gotta do what you feel’s right
Sounds like you’re doing fine
You crouched down, and no goodbye
What the hell was that sound?
Sounded close, sounded loud
Like a horse who jumped his cart
It was the sound of my broken heart”
The seasons are changing, and this album feels like it dropped at the perfect moment as autumn rolls around. It’s at once accessible, pensive and poetic. I’ve mentioned more than once that this year has been hard, and music has been a balm as the days blur together. It feels like Berry has captured the ebbing summer and oncoming autumn all at once.
As he sings on “Yellow Bird”
“A harvest moon in summer
The world’s most vibrant colour
A love to match no other”
Listen to Phantom Birds on Spotify. Matt Berry · Album · 2020 · 13 songs.