Graduate of the prestigious Belmont University songwriting course and an award winner, Josh Birdsong has debuted with the memorable five song EP Simple Geometry. Birdsong’s work mixes a strong singer/songwriter aesthetic with studied, quite evocative production. The production touches are never arbitrary additions – every decision made on Simple Geometry serves a larger purpose and enhances the overall performances. The musicianship is high caliber. Birdsong’s talents are considerable and the musicians accompanying him on this release are dialed into what the songs need. There’s no self-indulgence on any of the five songs and Birdsong’s instincts are clearly geared to presenting the songs without any dross whatsoever. His beautifully wrought vocals are capable of carrying the songs and inhabit a wide vocal range.
The heavy echo and reverb applied to the production immediately announces itself on “Unspeakable”. The guitar lines are melodically phrased and weave a delicate mood at the outset. It patiently builds from there and percussion gradually asserts its presence as the song progresses. Birdsong’s singing matches the ethereal slant of the music all the more rousing and sharper. Guitars drive “Radio Waves” much more than the previous song and do an excellent job of sonically embodying the title. There’s a lean muscularity about the arrangement on “Radio Waves” that keeps a laser focus from the opening seconds onward. Much of the ambient texture heard on the first two songs disappears from the EP’s third track “Drive”. The instruments and vocals alike are much more clearly defined than before and the mid-tempo track benefits greatly from stripped back, but precise and powerfully recorded drums. Birdsong’s vocals gain an extra level of power from the different production approach without him ever altering his approach much.
The ambient production style returns on the song “Why?” coupled with a very strong lyric. The arrangement has much of the same design heard on the EP’s earlier songs. They achieve their effects through accumulation – the patchwork of cascading guitar notes weaves a delicate dialogue and the steadily increasing pressure from the percussion slowly turns up the drama. The final song on Simple Geometry once again moves Birdsong away from the production effects on many of the earlier tracks in favor of an acoustic backing and lightly applied keyboards. Birdsong’s lyrical content is quite exceptional and his delivery, at times, is quite reminiscent of prime James Taylor. The pulse of the song picks up a little more as the song goes on, but there are a number of tasty tempo shifts in the song’s second half that add much to the track.
Simple Geometry is an exceptional debut that reminds us great new songwriters are still emerging with the ability to touch wide audiences, but it is also a reminder how much Nashville, traditionally known as Music City U.S.A., has transformed from a backwater powerhouse into a fully mainstream music mecca where young artists are able to still find a measure of exposure. Josh Birdsong is among the most talented new performers to come out in the last five years and work of this quality will ensure a rapidly developing fandom and greater achievements to come.