I'm stuck in here / I'm stuck / Wish I didn't have a name / Wish I could get lost / I'm stuck in here / I'm stuck
The basic human desire to break free from one’s true self -- if only for a moment -- is a feeling Nate Kinsella (the sole songwriting force behind Birthmark) knows all too well.
Choose any song on Antibodies, Birthmark's third full-length, and you'll quickly find lyrics that reveal Kinsella isn't always at ease with being the person that he is.
I get so scared, honey / I can never be somebody else / ... / I get so tired of hearing my own voice
"I really do try to present myself as a positive person in normal everyday life," Kinsella says, "But I also spend a lot of time thinking about death and feeling guilty, remorseful, regretful, and everything in between."
And so, Antibodies became Kinsella's outlet for the adverse thoughts constantly lurking just beneath the surface. From the contrast of how he views his own ugly faults in relation to his wife's beautiful flaws ("Your Imperfections") to his self-proclaimed inability to keep on living if a loved one were to be violently taken away ("Pacifist Manifesto"), Kinsella earnestly examines his own fears and shortcomings.
And yet, despite a lyrical slant toward acute self-criticism, musically Antibodies unfolds to the ebb and flow of a gentle, unhurried cadence that is often the hallmark of a record comfortable in its own skin.
This trait might not seem so surprising, though, when you consider the organic origins of its sounds. From vibraphones to violins, cellos to clarinets, each instrument on the album was played either by Kinsella or a session musician.
Even the stunning backwards string section on "Shake Hands" was painstakingly composed and performed with an actual string quartet. Elsewhere, album closer "Big Man" resonates just as deeply from the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Pairing only a sparse bass guitar with Kinsella's reverberating vocals, the song is undeniably captivating in its sublime simplicity.
And in the end, Antibodies finds Kinsella closer to being at peace with the knowledge that, as he has learned, "for better or worse, you can't escape you ever."
I wish I could be anything I have to be / But if I were anything different I wouldn't know the difference
The Line of Best Fit
Will this be the album that pulls its creator out from the wings and into the spotlight? It deserves to be.
Destined to be an instant favorite...another compelling, sophisticated Birthmark album.
Under the Radar
Birthmark does it right.
One of the best things Kinsella has ever done.
Big Man (4:10)Josh Steinbauer