Music News

John Common

Common's second solo recording (which greets the public at a CD-release party on Saturday, July 28, at Forest Room 5) is even more uncommon than its acclaimed 2006 predecessor. The material occasionally meanders, and some destinations are more rewarding than others. Nevertheless, the aural environment Common creates is so sumptuous that it rewards repeated listens even as it confounds expectations.

Unusual elements abound, including chattering avian sounds, ambient insect noises and a vintage church chorale sample that dominates "Unseen Things," one of several interstitial curiosities. However, Common's dedication to density pays greater dividends on his stronger compositions. The mildly psychedelic "Moonlight" undulates like a beam on the surface of a lake, and "Before You Met Me" mates a spare arrangement with electronic accoutrements and tender brass courtesy of Matt Gilliam. The results are as subtle as they are moving.

At times, Why Birds Fly settles for prettiness. But at its best, the album soars.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts