EP Review: Brich – Halfway


birch-halfwayReleased 28th August 2015

Words: Julia Grantham

I love discovering bands that have me hooked from the first listen. And this here debut EP, Halfway, from New York based synth-pop trio, Birch achieved just that. All-at-once, catchy, rhythmic and brimming with attitude, this band deliver assertiveness in the form of defiant female vocalist Michelle Birksy alongside some wonderful guitar and bass.

I think the description of a mere ‘synth-pop’ group is perhaps a little too easy, actually. They are Indie Rock, at times a little trip-hop, post-punk and I can here many layers of influence which span the decades; Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs for example. Although the New York music scene is evident, there is nothing samey about this group. Their influences may be clear, but they still retain a contemporary and fresh sound. Vocals are edgy, filled with passion and fuelled with energy. I defy anyone not to at least have their feet tapping if not dancing and singing along to these tunes.

The EP opener Fighting was definitely the right track to begin with. A steady, synth-pop beat opens the song, maybe a little post-punk too, it is heavy on bass and drums and vocally, has all the intensity of Karen O. The song builds to a fantastic crescendo before ending abruptly. It describes life’s struggles, American politics and the difficulties people face. I love the way it ends with the line ‘If you wanna be heard’ drawing attention to that very message and suggesting not to take life too seriously despite all it describes. On first listen, I imagined standing in a dingy gig venue somewhere, throwing some shapes and being inspired. Only the really special bands usually have that effect on me; please give this band a go!

A nice contrast to the first song is: Caroline. A slower, moodier and brooding tune, imparting words of wisdom; a cautionary tale sung by a woman, for a woman unable to let go of a bad relationship. This song makes you think about all things related to love, the inability to let go and the agony of it all; I love it. Although it starts slowly, it builds gradually. The heavy guitar passages are there almost as if to portray the feeling of a ‘heavy heart’ as described in the song. Next comes the title track, Halfway. A suitably and wonderfully placed uplifting track. I love the repetition of the line ‘This is our house, this is our home!’. A real power to the people track, this one. Listening to it is quite empowering actually, it invites you think ‘do what you want, it’s OK to be yourself!’ There are some lovely swirling post-punk moments, and quite dreamy distorted guitar sounds. The message is simple, but delivered brilliantly.

Finally, the cleverly titled track Window (less). Another slow, melancholy tune; about being awake late at night and the torment of not sleeping. I love the line ‘go away from my window’ as if saying ‘I don’t want you to see me’. It made me imagine the girl in the song, looking through glass, unable to escape imagining the very person that is on her mind. She wants to be rid of someone and can’t get him out of her head. Powerful stuff.

Birch are most definitely a band to watch. Gutsy, irresistible tunes, passion and attitude. What more could you want from an up-and-coming New York synth-pop outfit? I am willing to bet they will accompany some head-liner on a European tour in the near future and I for one will be queuing up to see them, when they do. Courtney Barnett and Birch anyone? Get me a ticket!

Listen to Halfway EP here:



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