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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Songs from Willipa Bay
Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Dusky ghosts of Americana music seem to be playing muse to Bill Santen these days. Bill Santen is the singer/songwriter behind the moniker Birddog, a band that you have probably never - but should've - heard of. After listening to Songs from Willipa Bay, I can say that the cover art is exactly indicative is what is contained within. This is a rainy, windswept, and lonely album that conjures up images of graveyard Midwestern skies over empty country highways in winter.

Birddog has an alt-country bent that keeps with the tradition of Americana, but keeps the shadows of Neil Young at bay by maintaining a respectable level of pop sensibility. Birddog strikes an impressive balance between pop balladry and the earthy wisdom of folk. Songs from Willipa Bay is accessible enough to draw in uninitiated listeners, but it never turns away even the most hardened music lover. The first track, "$100", is a perfect example of where the humility of folk checks pop's catchiness and results in lovely and memorable song.

The idea that less can mean more seems to hold true for Songs from Willipa Bay. The song structures are simple and straightforward with nothing is done to excess. The instrumentation only really deviates from the rock standard with the use of slide guitar and piano, (Jason Loewenstein of Sebadoh lends credibility and a hand on bass) but the voice of Bill Santen is what's in the spotlight. His somewhat flat and nasal drawl that reminds me of Isaac Brock (especially on "The Cities") complements the rainy-day-on-the-front-porch arrangements.

The most striking characteristic of Songs from Willipa Bay is its maturity. The themes within the songs are not particularly original, but there are developed and adult perspectives on the themes of heartbreak, loss, and loneliness. There is no whining or sympathy-fishing drivel delivered by some emotionally crippled kid with tousled hair.

The only palpable flaw I can find in Songs from Willipa Bay is brevity. The seven songs on this disc play through without ever getting tiresome and then they are done, leaving you to look over your shoulder at the stereo and wondering if that's all. If Mr. Santen is intent on keeping me in need of more of his music, then he is doing good job. If you need something a little more mature and friendly than garage and post-whatever rock out there, then go out and pick up a copy of this beautiful album.

Reviewed by John Peters
A former contributing writer for LAS, John married former music editor Sarah Iddings. That\'s the last we heard from him.

See other reviews by John Peters



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