After releasing three forgettable albums in the past six years, Erin McKeown reintroduces herself, and this time, the music actually sticks. We Will Become Like Birds finally establishes the 27-year-old as a singer-songwriter who deserves attention. Her previous ventures showed plenty of potential, but her sultry torch-song alto and knowing lyrics were often drowned out by gin-joint jazz instrumentation, and the disappointments collected dust far too quickly. This time, McKeown has proven herself a songwriter on par with the likes of Crowded House's Neil Finn, which makes her use of his studio bedfellows all the more appropriate. But that's not all she has in common with the master songwriter--"Life on the Moon," "White City" and "You Were Right About Everything" have delicious pop hooks well-seasoned with Americana, blues and a little Beatles. Her vocals sporadically recall Tasmin Archer or Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino, and yet they are inherently hers. Perhaps this album will fall into the same obscurity as her others, but this time, the reason will be the same curse that plagues Finn--the songwriting is too good and too smart. At the very least, McKeown has given music lovers something to recommend whenever a pessimist whines about how nobody makes good, original music anymore.
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