Vermont songwriter Austin Sirch is a new face in the Green Mountain music community. Judging by his self-titled debut, he's sure to become a familiar one. With a hazy, anti-folk, experimental bent, his new record is uniquely refreshing.
Sirch's fragile, earnest falsetto is the centerpiece of the disc, which also features upright bass, percussion and strings. Although the charming, homemade packaging contains a track listing, the CD itself is sequenced as a single tune. This forced me to consider the album as a whole -- not a bad thing with music this amorphous.
Fans of free-flag-flying artists such as Six Organs of Admittance and Akron/Family will find plenty to enjoy here. Like the aforementioned acts, Sirch marries winning melodies to woozily ramshackle song structures. At one point in the proceedings, his multitracked vocals are joined by a quick blast of backwards cello. Elsewhere, the music recalls humid summer afternoons and the buzzing of insects in tall grass. Sirch's emotional cooing is solid throughout, as he delivers romantic prose like a bohemian Romeo.
While the production -- by ace ear Michael Chorney -- is decidedly lo-fi, the lack of polish only enhances the material's emotional immediacy. Although the liner notes are spare, it appears most of the music was tracked by Sirch alone. The recording's weakest aspect is its drum performances. While the beats are interesting, occasional rhythmic misfires come across as more sloppy than avant-garde.
Overall, what makes this record so special is its utter lack of self-consciousness. Sirch sounds perfectly comfortable letting it all hang out, musically speaking. This easygoing confidence makes his left-of-center compositions remarkably enjoyable. Although young men strumming acoustics is hardly a new phenomenon, his unique spin on the timeworn tradition recognizes few boundaries.
Sirch is an enormously promising talent whose work reveals an active musical mind. It's nice to hear local music that takes such bold chances. If this is the future of the singer-songwriter genre, I say, bring it on.