A Pound of Feathers, the debut release from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kiro Heck, reads almost more like a curated playlist than a traditional album. Over the course of ten tracks, at least as many genre representations are presented through incredibly smooth and careful production, inspired instrumentation, and clean vocal delivery. The end result is a record that, as a great playlist, is capable of shifting the listener through multiple moods and listening experiences, creating a dynamic and engaging final product.
What cannot be overstated about A Pound of Feathers is how apt the title itself is; throughout this album, Kiro takes aspects associated with lightness and adds pressure to them until they become something heavier and denser, be it in the music, lyrics, or production. The opening track “Daily Waves” is a laid-back, seaswept mesh of chorused guitars, fat bass, electronic drums, and Toro-Y-Moi vocal harmonies. The immaculate production makes the song feel delicate and breezy, while self-reflective (and often self-criticizing) lyrics add realistic and relatable weight, marrying these two moods in a skillful and familiar way.
Less is a whole lot more on several tracks, as the mood shifts to relaxed, acoustic guitar driven melodies with crisp, airy vocals taking center stage. Tracks like “Good Things” and “As I’m Told” find Kiro doing his best Sufjan Stevens impression instrumentally with flighty acoustics and vocal melodies that sound right out of the Phoenix playbook, replete with bold falsettos and harmonies. Personal lyrics like “I’ve been complacent to what was convenient” and “Untangling an inherited guilty conscious” feel particularly weighty adjacent to the sparse instrumentation. The hermetic production makes sure that despite minimalist instrumentals, each track sounds full and lush, completely filling the dynamic space. Not a drop of emotion is wasted in these tracks, it rather seeps through like honey mingling itself with tea.
Kiro excels at creating the atmosphere around his songs, dragging them into natural environments. The low, vaguely out of tune mellotron flutes sitting behind his voice on the song “Talk to Me, Bro” move like digital birds fluttering in and out of frame, while a sporadically appearing sub bass gives transient definition to certain lyrical points. The following “Ball Pit” takes this a step further, with a fun, lively instrumental that matches its whimsical title. Pops of zany percussion fill a catchy, Sgt. Peppery sounding alternative rock track, though confessional lyrics like “I felt inadequate, I can’t get over it” keep the song grounded. Kiro forms the greatest atmospheric visualization on the album during the outro of this track, which finds him alone in nature with the previously joyful instrumental striped down to an acoustic guitar and a light but powerful piano melody, all accompanied by the sounds of rushing water. Motion seems to be a powerful musical theme throughout A Pound of Feathers, with many of the effects seeming to imply forward momentum, especially in tandem with the self-reflective lyrics. On “Domestic Bliss”, references to “a bad case of the Mondays” and “TGI Fridays” do their part to imply temporal distress, amongst an excellent, slow-building melange of pianos, guitars, and light synthesizers.
Certain tracks on A Pound of Feathers absolutely nail the sound that they’re going within the context of genre identity, but often they don’t really look past those self-imposed walls to make something more interesting or groundbreaking. “Stillness” comes across as an almost country-ish, nineties alternative rock track in a bit of a jarring detour from the rest of the record. “Presbyterian” is the most explicitly folk-leaning track on the record, with just a guitar and vocals singing slightly distorted through an amp cabinet, evoking the early morning haze the song’s lyrics allude to. Here, Kiro is successfully creating a beautiful atmosphere, but given the upbeat and exciting first half of the record, the plunge into more stripped back songwriting renders the overall mood of A Pound of Feathers somewhat sleepy rather than poignant.
Kiro Heck clearly knows what he’s doing. It’s not often a debut album comes along absolutely packed with creative songwriting and lyricism, pristine production, and the apparently easy development of multiple musical styles that would take others multiple albums to crack. With A Pound of Feathers, Kiro Heck builds a whole world for his music to thrive.
- Incredibly clean production
- Thoughtful lyrics
- Dynamic and interesting songwriting
- Multiple styles represented
- Certain tracks come off a little cheesy
- Sleepy second half creates a sort of dissonant perspective of the album as a whole