The Choir’s twelfth release, Burning Like the Midnight Sun, finds them continuing to mine similar sonic textures as The Church (QRO interview) and Cocteau Twins. The band has always had a knack for creating soaring, ethereal music, but on this release they take things even higher. Part of this may be due to guitarist Marc Byrd (from instrumental/atmospheric duo Hammock) being a full-fledged member. The interplay between Byrd and Derri Daugherty (lead vocals, guitars) is oftentimes magical and practically lyrical. With a sturdy foundation from Steve Hindalong (drums, percussion, lyricist) and Tim Chandler (bass), the guitars are free to float around the structure of the songs. Add Dan Michaels (saxophone, lyricon) to the mix and you’ve got something beautiful.
The title track is also the opener and it sets up the rest of the album nicely. Near the last half of the song, guest Christine Glass Byrd (Marc’s wife) makes her first appearance. Her haunting vocals bring to mind Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser. Glass Byrd’s voice makes a number of appearances throughout the album and is always a gorgeous thing to hear. "That Melancholy Ghost" starts with the guitar panning around the anchor of the rhythm section fitting the lyrical subject matter nicely. The panning is like the unsettling feelings of a young broken heart, but there is a core in the drums and bass that lend a semblance of stability in the pain. Michaels’ haunting saxophone dances around the corners of the track like the title suggests. There are numerous lovely moments on Burning Like the Midnight Sun. Sometimes it’s easy to take it all for granted and get lulled into a trance, and then something even more beautiful shakes you. An example of this would be the very brief appearance on "Mr. Chandler" when Christine Glass Byrd sings the line, "I cannot let you fly". It’s a part so small but the song wouldn’t be exactly right without it.
Lyrically, much of Burning Like the Midnight Sun is about relationships, friendships, trials, triumphs, loss and rebirth. Hindalong has always had an artistic way of making a simple sentiment sound poignant. In "A Friend So Kind", about the death of a longtime friend, he writes "So now you’ve gone away / In a sudden gust of wind / And we’re sadder than hell / ‘Cause we miss you, dear friend." Daugherty delivers the words as if they are his own. It’s easy to forget he didn’t actually write them, but on record, he owns them. The album closes with the lovely, sparse "Say Goodbye to Neverland" with its theme of the loss of innocence, growing up, and moving on with your life.
Hindalong has noted that for this release the musical personalities of all five individuals integrated just right. Adding Marc Byrd as a full member makes this very apparent. It also might be time to make Christine Glass Byrd member number six. The contributions the Byrd’s make to The Choirs’ sound is immeasurable. That’s not to say The Choir lacked anything sonically on previous releases, but it’s as if all the pieces came together this time. On this record, The Choir soars with two Byrds.
MP3 Stream: "Midnight Sun"