Review – “Tambourine Death Bed” – Michael Feuerstack

reviewed by Laura Stanley 

Michael Feuerstack may have abandoned his previous moniker, Snaihouse, for his new record Tambourine Death Bed, but Feuerstack has not lost the strength of his unique lyrical craft. Claiming to be “starting fresh under his own name,” Feuerstack’s Tambourine Death Bed is rich and contemplative, often using simple objects and images in its titles, “The Map” and “Tambourine” for example, as the backbone for an intimate outpouring.

Unlike his previous record, Snailhouse’s Sentimental Gentleman, which is a fairly full-band and poppy affair, Tambourine Death Bed is darker and stripped down, rarely pushing the envelope in terms of volume and when it does, it is in a dramatic melancholic style that fits with the tone of the album.

Opening the record, “The Same Sky” captures the hushed tones of Tambourine Death Bed, slowly slipping listeners into Feuerstack’s new world. Beautifully mixing Feuerstack’s gruff vocals with the airy tones from Little Scream front woman Laurel Sprengelmeyer, this is a pairing which carries throughout (listen to the duet “Leave Me Alone” in particular!) and provides a continual source of grace.

The sense of longing and desire in “Take Me” and the natural imagery of “Trees” are two songs which also include the subtle and quiet instrumentation, allowing for Feuerstack’s brilliant lyrical phrasing to be the centre. “Tambourine,” the track which inspires the album title, ends with Feuerstack questioning, “Maybe on my deathbed I’m going to worry about the things I said/Maybe on my deathbed I’m going to laugh out loud/Maybe on my deathbed I’m going to worry about my cash-flow/Maybe on my deathbed – who knows?” It is the recognition of the unknown and the feelings of uncertainty expressed by Feuerstack that are part of the many haunting observations keenly made by the songwriter.

On the other end of the sound spectrum, “Modern Warfare” is a gritty and bluesy track, matching the same feelings that perhaps come with the “warfare,” that is slight on the lyrics. Along with its melodious and powerful chorus though, the open meaning of what precisely the modern warfare consists of, allows it to be a universally appealing song.

Another album guest Colin Stetson helps to close Tambourine Death Bed in “Scorekeeper.” Beginning with a lusher version of the Feuerstack and Sprengelmeyer pairing, Stetson’s horn and woodwind contribution quickly takes over the song, ending the re-birth (if you will) of Michael Feuerstack on a very satisfying note.

Tambourine Death Bed is available at your local record store, iTunes and Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “Modern Warfare” “Scorekeeper”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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