”I’m going in for hibernation” is the opening line of the aptly-titled ‘Hibernation’, a track that belongs to new Bella Union signing Heidi Spencer and The Rare Birds debut LP Under Streetlight Glow. It also pretty much summarises the overall sentiment I have in regards to this record. Listening to this debut, is a sleepy, midly enjoyable but ultimately one-tone pleasure. One that has its moments but the majority of time, it just passes you by.
There’s no two ways about it, this debut is extremely monochrome in both its pace and sound, with the album staying very true to the classic country arrangement; acoustic guitar and melodic piano, and only just leaning within a whisker of differentiation throughout the 38 minutes. It’s not that this structure of song isn’t impressive, if anything the album starts off promisingly with Spencer’s bittersweet and slight husky drawl working hand in glove with her lament lyrics.
Indeed, they’re lyrics formed of beautiful simplicity: ”I’m watching you sit there with your secrets and your shadows/ Sharing your sins with that bottle”, and focus mainly on topic of love - the pejorative experiences and aspects of the four letter word. But as the album progresses, the complete lack of scope, both lyrical and musically, becomes gradually more and more evident, and what at the beginning was enjoyable ends up being unforgivably insipid. As great as some of these tracks may be, it’s incredibly naive or mis-judged of Heidi and the Rare Birds to think that this type of one-direction-only lovelorn song is enough to keep a debut afloat.
What’s slightly more annoying is when the LP does take a chance it’s all the better for it, the string section on ‘Tired and True’ is genuinely heartbreaking and gives her catharsis another dimension, and the small increase of momentum on ‘Whiskey’ is a successful detour from her aforementioned sound. There’s no doubt that there is promise and potential, it’s just a shame that it isn’t used to maximum effect.