Birdlips: A Profound Little Travelogue In Song

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Tire Chains"
  • Artist: Birdlips
  • CD: Cardboard Wings
  • Genre: Folk-Rock
Birdlips 300

In the sweetly romantic "Tire Chains," Birdlips' members draw inspiration from their travels around Europe. Greg Nash hide caption

toggle caption Greg Nash

Not the type of songwriter to lock himself in a room until he's finished, Birdlips' Cliff Usher gathers the pieces for his songs from wherever he travels. In the case of Birdlips' first album, that place is Europe, but not the crowded streets of its inhabitants. Instead, the romantic Cardboard Wings combines the outdoor, lyrical approach of Wordsworth with the terse intensity of Shelley.

A traveler's confessional lament, the album jumbles flute, guitar, and piano into raw folk melodies; they've been plucked from various countries, but they still come out sounding predestined, like a perfect black-and-white film where nothing is out of place. Usher and bandmate Lindsay Pitts don't need or want a dozen takes to get their harmonies perfect — in fact, the raw blend of their voices is best left unpolished. Haunting but rich, "Tire Chains" recounts a group's chilly trip to France, and in true art-film fashion offers some profound tidbits: "Time is only worth the air it buys / We can't spend our lives plotting our path as the crow flies."

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from