Philadelphia’s Peter Gural is the primary author of one of the year’s best releases with his collection Birdy’s World. The Berklee School of Music graduate has chops galore, that’s obvious, but his technical skills never undercut the immediate authenticity of his songwriting art. The unabashed autobiographical nature of Gural’s writing never limits its ability to connect with a wide swath of the Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter’s target audience.
The bright bounce of the collision between Gural’s indie rock and pop sensibilities produces many sparks for the album’s title song. He kicks off the release with “Birdy’s World” with an obvious sign of confidence that presages substantive songs to come. The reverb-driven quivering of the guitar sound, the chiming effect of the song’s chords, and Gural’s deceptively light yet deeply emotive delivery conspire to begin the album on an auspicious note.
He continues making a deep impact blending relentlessly upbeat musical textures with stark “confessional” lyrics during “Lonely Song”. His effervescent and immensely tuneful singing explores his extended vocal range rather than restricting itself to a single register. It gives the song deeper dimensions. Lively guitar playing propels his music once again. “Around the Bend” is a glittering near-ballad reliant on more of the chiming guitars and vocal wizardry that fuel the album’s earlier songs. He’s reaching for different effects here than those preceding quasi-alternative rockers, but the music retains the same essential character.
“Lost Island Man” is certainly one of the most distinctive compositions included in Birdy’s World. The presence of pedal steel guitar in an erstwhile example of stylish dream-like pop is one of the key highlights of this recording, but Gural laden the songwriting with small, unexpected twists that exert a significant effect on the final result. Take the example of the dramatic percussion near the song’s conclusion – it’s an artful move coming at the song’s close that helps emphasize its descending curtain.
Gural returns to indie rock fundamentals with the insistent stride of “Living in Dysfunction”. The song never builds a sufficient head of steam capable of overwhelming listeners, but nonetheless stands out as one of the most solid examples of Gural’s rock credentials recorded for this collection. His production choices will give “Flatline” a slightly self-conscious air for some listeners as he wreaths his voice in light echo and introduces new instrumental voices into the album’s mix.
Others, however, will appreciate the diversity. It still sounds resolutely like Peter Gural, make no mistake, and the obvious theatrical implications of the song’s sonic choices give it unique power. Gural’s voice does an excellent job inhabiting the synthesizer and keyboard landscape of “I’ll Be in Your Heart” with a distinctly human presence that redeems each second. Few will deny his chops as a soul vocalist.
Few will deny, as well, that Peter Gural’s one-of-a-kind musical and songwriting voice deserves the widest possible audience. The eleven cuts track listed for the Philadelphia singer/songwriter’s Birdy’s World are poignant human testaments in song form with bottomless entertainment appeal that endures over time. You can’t hope for better.