Sound: Sam Cohen is best known for his work in the psych-rock band Apollo Sunshine. However after Apollo Sunshine's indefinite hiatus, Cohen took to Yellowbirds, his psych-pop solo project. "The Color", Cohen's debut album under this new moniker, proved to be a warm musical journey through reminiscent fields of a simpler, freer spirituality.
The album opens up with a trio of songs that feel very soothing. Songs like "The Rest Of My Life" and "Beneath The Reach Of Light" are slow and full of ambient undertones, sometimes sounding like a 50's style indie rock jam bursting through an old KB radio. In some songs like "Rings In The Trees" and "The Reason". Cohen shows a nice spectrum of experimentation by including reverberated, spacey guitars, synth pianos, and odd tempo changes. The guitar work in the album is quite impressive. The guitar solos are simple but very unique to each song. Swelling guitars muted over what sounds like a fuzzy pre-amp are common backups in this album and seem to have become a staple to the psych-pop genre. "In Our World" shows off Cohen's musicianship with a fast array of alt picking in the lead guitar that opens into elevator-esque chilled music.
The highlights of "The Color" come with songs like "The Honest Ocean" and "Pulaski Bridge". The pace of "The Honest Ocean" is really fast and it changes lead structures back and forth. Then out of nowhere, it changes rhythm perfectly into a slow foot-tapping tempo. The guitar licks provide the missing links in the song. If that wasn't enough, the clean slowed arpeggios are so catchy as the second selling point of this song. The problem with "The Honest Ocean" is that the song isn't long enough. Listeners will demolish the replay button. "Pulaski Bridge" is the second hit on this album. It starts out with an energetic, buzzy, digital arpeggio rhythm while the opening lyrics speak to the wandering heart. A western sound seems to prevail from within this song, which is the best subtle touch Cohen could have added.
The weakest parts of this album are the instrumental bridges leading into other songs. "The Color II" and "Wagner, Max" are rather boring and uninspired. They are rather just a filler piece used to bridge the gap between the songs as well as allowing Cohen to fill a full LP. // 8
Lyrics: Cohen sounds boisterous with the right amount of melancholy, and the chorus is emphasized in quiet melodies of songs. His baritones hit really low and sound like a modern day Roy Orbison mixed with a male She & Him. Cohen presents his demeanor through his songs, allowing quick turns into choral melodies that catch you in their satisfying web. At times, his droning vocals create an easy atmosphere accompanied by a piano that twinkles with a quiet, yet grooving guitar tone. "The Honest Ocean"'s opening lyrics will get stuck in your head without a doubt. Cohen's vocals are the most touching when he sings the line "...Open the real gates. I want to see into that ocean. Want to see the truth, not just emotion." // 7
Overall Impression: Overall, the album is very energetic while maintaining a catchy rhythmic undertone. The vocals are lulling and heavily reverberated which create a relaxed atmosphere. The guitar work is surprisingly magnificent for a psych-pop album. Moments in "The Color" are fuzzily distorted and suggest a 70's rock feel while maintaining a carefree 60's energy. The album takes a few listens to appreciate but once you really give it a chance, it's an album that will surely be a crowd pleaser. If anything, Yellowbirds is just as impressive and sways just as smoothly as Apollo Sunshine. Listen to this album. It's a gem in the making. // 8