Album Review: Virgin of the Birds – Secret Kids (Ball of Wax Midwives a Lit-rock Masterpiece)

Virgin of the Birds - Secret KidsVirgin of the Birds – Secret Kids
(2016, Abandoned Love/Song, by Toad)


Virgin of the Birds is celebrating the release of a uniquely outstanding record October 22, 2016 at Substation. Secret Kids, the band’s sophomore LP (out today), is unabashedly tasteful, complex, and intelligent. The perfect pop album, an album so pure and expressive that a 40-year-old music fan can approach it without suspending disbelief, Secret Kids is that singular record that may, in a decade, be all that is remembered from the songwriter scene here in Seattle, and that would be okay.

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Submit to Ball of Wax 46!

Courtesy flick user maziar hooshmand

Courtesy flickr user
maziar hooshmand

Yet again we find ourselves putting together a collection of the finest and weirdest and least-heard sounds we can find to be lovingly compiled into a volume of Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly. As you probably know, sometimes there is a theme (like the brilliant One Minute Singles collection we just released); this time there is no theme. Just send in something cool and we’ll let the magic happen.

Unreleased or exclusive tracks not required (though certainly more than welcome), so if you have a new or forthcoming album you want to shed some light on, that is perfectly acceptable.

Deadline: Friday, October 14th (deadline flexible, early submissions always greatly appreciated)

General guidelines here.

Send questions here.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Friendship Commanders/Levi Fuller and the Library/Terwilliger Curves

“Fighting Shape” by Friendship Commanders is fast, furious punk with a touch of rock heroics that blasts through the wall like so much Kool Aid Man in the guise of a rock band.

Levi Fuller and the Library‘s “Unfuck the World” is noisy and rough around the edges, a brave, raucous invitation to “unfuck the world, you and I.”

Portland’s Terwilliger Curves unfurls the spaced-out freak-rock with “Ground the Lightning,” straddling a tasteful line between Mod and psych that’s sure to be a highlight at Friday’s Volume 45 Release show at the Sunset in Seattle.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: The Vardaman Ensemble/Baylies Band

The Vardaman Ensemble does exactly as the song title “Kill the Jam. Kill It Like Custard.” promises, setting up a pleasingly skronky groove that you wouldn’t mind rocking out to for several minutes and then callously exploding it with no regard for your bobbing head.

The hardest, fastest section of Baylies Band‘s musical quintych “Let’s Get Stabbed” is a ferocious blast of nihilistic punk that wouldn’t be out of place on the Repo Man soundtrack.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Colin Ernst/Country Legend Dick Freckles

From Colin Ernst, “Just a Minute” is the hook of the collection—how does he squeeze so much sound into one minute, all leading to the refrain of “Hold on, wait just a minute” organized from the lead up 30 seconds—a Threepenny Opera of an arrangement; if anyone knows his Brecht, I can guarantee it’s this dude.

Following on Colin Ernst’s heels, we have newcomer Country Legend Dick Freckles, a songwriter that seems to be both trained and skilled, but this time, as the name suggests, amping up the humor; with the right gusto, you can make the star of Look Who’s Talking Too sound like the focus of midnight mass—Wes Anderson could probably make a video for this puppy.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Seth Howard/Rowan Calder Adair

rowanadair[There are two songs on Vol. 45 titled “Can I Have My Bullet Back?” We’re happy to welcome guest writer Rowan Adair to the Blog of Wax to explain what’s going on.]

One day I lost my Nerf bullet in my neighbors’ yard. Then I wrote them a note saying ‘Can I have my bullet back? – Rowan’. I told my mom. My dad told me that he recorded a ‘Can I Have My Bullet Back?’ song!

I told him the song was embarrassing and I was gonna write my own. It’s gonna go like this:

I wrote this song to rebel against dad to tell him I don’t think we should have homemade mac & cheese for dinner ever.

Dad’s song was NOT the best song. It was not the best song because the directions were done wrong. My song has special effects but no musical instruments. That’s how it’s great.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Virgin of the Birds/Matthew Brown/Duodenum

Virgin of the Birds sings a pointed question in his “Condemned Stages Become Stellar,” with well-delivered words, consonants, timing, and delivery that make you ponder while listening to beautiful light doodles on the electric guitar floated above rhythmic strumming and simple percussion.

Matthew Brown‘s “Disinterested, Stalking” is haunting background music and ambient noise for when you awake to a world recently decimated from nuclear holocaust and all you see is in shades of red orange and gray.

You are walking around in a dream state lost with butterfly and madness hovering overhead as if in a psychedelic new wave flick named Eclipse.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: gemmules / Julia Massey / Foghorns

gemmules‘ “Olympic” is the perfect last sixty-two seconds of a late ’80s alternative gem . . . without Bono’s singing over the top.

Julia Massey‘s “To Us Too” shows that you can still have a catchy hook repeat five times in a minute and a half pop song.

The Foghorns (performing at the Ball of Wax 45 show next Friday the 2nd!) sing from inside Monstro the Whale with their latest smash hit, “If You Wake in the Morning.”

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: GravelRoad/Harvey Girls/Darryl Blood

GravelRoad brings the sped-up scuzzy road rock with “Med Pass,” sounding like ’70s ZZ Top on bath salts.

The Harvey Girls‘ “Butterfly2” is a haunted, back porch dirge, like the Doors’ “The End” played in Carcosa.

Darryl Blood‘s “Cluster” is similarly spectral, though more cerebral than spooky thanks to a probing piano motif and spacey, ambient noise.

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Ball of Wax 45 Songs: Mike Votava/Orphan Train

Unless your first name is ‘Weird,’ funny songs can be tough to pull off, but – as Mike Votava demonstrates on “Pants Are Optional” – if you have a severely constrained time limit and a sweet keyboard hook, anything is possible.

Further in music and humor: although Orphan Train‘s Aram Arslanian‘s anthemic head-banger “Curtis Curtis” isn’t (I don’t think) meant to be funny, its instrumental bones have their origin as the walk-on music for Carlos Mencia’s standup routine a decade or so ago.

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