Album Review: Jonathan Wilson – Rare Birds

Abundant in textures and sounds, Jonathan Wilson’s Rare Birds is a nuanced album that will surely get you out of that music rut you’re in. Each track serves as a stylistic wave that comes and goes, making for a very creative, mystical, eccentric album, and one that would play out incredibly live. With psychedelia undertones, strong hints of British rock, amongst other influences, Rare Birds is a uniquely modern take on the genre of rock itself.

In songs like Me and Sunset Blvd, you can’t help feeling sentiments of wistfulness, a recurring but not dominating theme throughout the album considering it’s inspired by a break-up. Over The Midnight and Loving You, easily the best, most sonically refreshing songs on the entire album, are reminiscent of a hippie War On Drugs, if such a band existed. There’s something magically dreamy about these songs that are mellow yet rhythmical, and melodically relatable — the simple, hooking vocals and enchanting, airy instrumentals make you want to have these tracks on a perpetual loop.

While many songs on Rare Birds are emotionally fitting, There’s A Light is a glimpse of hope and joy, and Hi Ho The Righteous, a twangy and folky tune, is clearly not like the others. Nevertheless, the mood change is nice and gives us a deeper understanding of Wilson’s emotional journey. Living With Myself is another standout — with a contemporary soft rock and subtle Peter Gabriel vibe, not to mention Lana Del Rey’s sultry vocals adding an exaggerated melancholic effect.

Musically, Rare Birds is vintage but evolved, a raw showcase of Jonathan Wilson’s immense artistry. While we can compare individual tracks to something distantly familiar, we cannot put Jonathan Wilson into a box, a rare quality to have as a musician and producer. The album is passionate and expressive, with moments of sadness, beauty, remorse, and hope — something that doesn’t come by too often.

Julia Kwan