The Wooden Birds are treading lightly on well-worn musical territory. While their brand of soothing, guitar-laden alt-folk is enjoyable and pleasant, it is derivative. Much of this can be explained by the fact that the band is a side project of Andrew Kenny, guitarist/vocalist of the established and well-loved American Analog Set. Formed in 2008, the Wooden Birds unfortunately seem to emulate (unintentionally) the current crop of Iron & Wine-esque groups popping up in the indie-music scene. The genre is already over-saturated with talented artists who have garnered notable critical success (M. Ward, Jose Gonzales, Bon Iver, to name a few), and because of this, it is predictable that The Wooden Birds might fall to the wayside.
Aside from the aforementioned “issues,” this is a nicely put together album. Steady and even-handed, each song is a straightforward, pretty masterpiece. The harmonies are well placed (“Hailey”) and the beat is always consistent. The mellow, rolling tempo that backs most of the tracks (see “The Other One” for a prime example of their style) is lulling and even-keeled. This is not an album to dance to, but perhaps one to sway in the corner alone to.
Ultimately, Magnolia is small in scope and ideas, even lyrically at times (see “Hometown Fantasy” and “Seven Seventeen”), but to earnest and pleasant to listen to nonetheless. At their best, The Wooden Birds sound a bit funky and mysterious even (“Believe in Love”). For those who are looking for something organic and bittersweet, but not necessarily need to have their socks knocked off, this album is just the right thing.