Little Birdy – Confetti

It was always going to be an uncertainty just which direction Little Birdy would take on their third record. Whilst both 2004’s bigbiglove and 2006’s Hollywood could easily be classifiable as pop records, the difference was in the execution. bigbiglove was rooted firmly in oft-twangy, semi-acoustic balladry; whereas Hollywood found the band in love with the synthesiser, with far more mainstream sensibilities and a Dust Brothers polish.

So where do we find the band in 2009? Their third album, Confetti, is ultimately the equivalent of being told a story with a capturing introduction that grabs your attention – only to be bored by the rest of it and put off by an abrupt ending.

Not only is Brother deceptive as an opening track, it’s also deceptive as a lead single. A country jaunt at its heart, vocalist Katy Steele’s chirpy, soulful melodies are matched with a rollicking beat, charming acoustic strumming and a brief, but certainly notable, appearance from Australian bard Paul Kelly on backing vocals and harmonica. It couldn’t really be defined as a return to form, as it doesn’t really go back to the sounds of either of their previous albums. It can, however, most certainly be defined as highlight of the band’s career thus far. Were the whole record to continue in this fashion, you could well have prematurely called Australian album of the year.

As you may have guessed at this stage, making the rest of Confetti as good as Brother is not exactly –  “mission accomplished’. It’s more like when then-President Bush called –  “Mission Accomplished’ on the war in Iraq – in actuality, there was still a lot of work to be done. Certainly, you can’t discredit the remainder of the set entirely. Single Summarise is sweet vintage pop with some infectious horns and perfectly syncopated handclaps; and songs like Into My Arms and Crazy prove Steele’s capabilities as a distinctive, harmonious and confident singer.

Even still, the songwriting is decidedly lazy. The band take a wrong turn from the kind of pop they’re attempting; turning classic and recognisable into plain derivative. The dull rhythms aren’t assisted by Steele’s lyrics, which centre on some generic love story with the usual ups and downs. It culminates in the concluding title track with the lyric “My heart is confetti” – easily the worst heart analogy since Lady Sovereign’s “My heart’s like a jigsaw puzzle”.

Little Birdy aren’t dead – this album is sure to do well within some area of the Australian pop demographic. With this in mind, however, Confetti continues a slow but steady decline in overall album quality. The magic that was captured in the band’s pre-debut EPs, on songs like Baby Blue and This is a Love Song, is in desperate need of being rediscovered and vitalised to get the band out of this current stupor. Without this, the band’s fourth record could well end up with no highlights whatsoever. Approach with caution.

Confetti is out now on Eleven/Universal.