From its low cast opening track, somewhat misleadingly named “Sunshine,” through to a series of songs that sway discreetly but without hesitation, Birds often comes across just as elusive as its title implies. As Glier’s proven in the past, he’s a master when it comes to manipulating emotion with songs that switch sentiments as easily as some people switch their socks. Indeed, no sooner have the final notes of “Sunshine” melted away, then Glier changes course with the twitchy rhythms of “Water On Fire,” a song that’s edgy, abrasive, driving and defiant. That in turn is followed by the poppy and precocious title track, lending a sense of schizophrenia due to Glier’s desire to shake up his sound.
It gives the album an auspicious introduction, but then again Glier has always made it apparent that his higher ambitions are essential to his MO. Still, his precise phrasing and subtle touches provide all the incentive needed to encourage further listenings. The lovely yet unassuming “Just Because I Can” and the subtler strains of “Too Much Water” somehow seem to surge on even the slightest suggestion, an indication that he’s all too adept when it comes to nuance and knowhow.
Clearly then, Glier doesn’t pander through predictability. Mellow ballads surge with a cascading crescendo, while an all but unrecognizable cover of “For What It’s Worth” adds a hipster-like quality that’s clearly all his own. That’s not to say Glier’s not occasionally prone to lift an influence or two. Beach Boys-like harmonies intertwine with a soft solitary vocal that often brings to mind a hint of America’s early musings.
Ultimately, Glier proves himself a master of nuance, one reason why an otherwise unassuming song like “People Like Us” can create a such a giddy impression despite its deprecating comments: “People like us make up our own rules/People like us still have growing up to do.” Indeed, he can come across as cruel and recriminating, as indicated on “Like I Do”:
“I want you to feel
What it’s like to lose
I want you to hurt like I do.”
To label Glier a master manipulator may be too harsh an appraisal, but it’s hard to deny the fact that his lush arrangements are often at odds with his true intents. Yet that’s what makes Birds soar beyond momentary ear candy and into the realms of mystique.