Home Read Albums Of The Week: Birthday Ass | Head Of The Household

Albums Of The Week: Birthday Ass | Head Of The Household

The Brooklyn jazz-rockers have some serious fun on their skronky sophomore set.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The head of the household sets the standards, makes the rules, and can break them as they see fit. Priya Carlberg, vocalist, composer, and maestro leads Birthday Ass wherever she directs, and on Head Of The Household, she announces her unique musical vision in boisterous fashion.

Carlberg formed Birthday Ass with her friends from the New England Conservatory. Their backgrounds in jazz and improvisation evokes a certain idea of artistry: Strictly serious, cold, and academic. The ensemble at once meets and defies those expectations on their sophomore album. Carlberg composes every part of these invigorating songs, each instrumental line and each lyric, and creates unexpected and multifaceted rock songs. The method and mastery behind Birthday Ass are as astute (pun intended) as can be, but the music that results overflows with an infectious, unfiltered vitality.

The rest of the group, made up of Alex Quinn on trumpet, Raef Sengupta on saxophone, Andres Abenante on guitar, Dan Raney on bass, and Jonathan Starks on drums, use their education and experience to take Carlberg’s ear-grabbing and intricate compositions and master them. They fill them out into their richest, most exuberant state by collectively discussing, experimenting, and tweaking the arrangements to create what you hear live and on record. The result is 10 rock songs that take you where they lead and have you dancing along the whole way.

Birthday Ass toy with bubbling, vibrant chaos throughout Head Of The Household but are always in complete control, allowing the natural flow of expression to move through concise, dynamic tracks. On Sunlit Toes, the steadfast beat never allows entropy to overwhelm, even as moments of creaking horns and attacking guitar and bass seem to threaten the integrity of the bouncing groove that propels the song. Your heart race accelerates on the sugar rush of Jello, which builds to a tense peak and then leaves you with a floating sensation.

The discord and tumult of improvisation are present in all of Head Of The Household, but never feel treacherous, as Carlberg and co. confidently weave through a tracklist of diverse styles and sounds, from the surf-tinged-tremolo guitar on the back-half of Spiced Twice, to the intricacy and sparsity in the environment of the elevated nursery rhyme, Buckle My Shoe, and the open space bookended by disarray on Plubbage Blubbage. All the while, Carlberg’s expressive and piercing vocals emphasize and interact with each new sonic element; her voice is highlighted completely, literally through vocals but also in each enticing musical fragment.

Head Of The Household is as flamboyant and celebratory of a romp as you’d expect from a band called Birthday Ass and is just as strong and assured as the title would suggest. It is an example of virtuosity that shuns pretension and revels in the delight of creativity, and a collection of exhilarating, masterfully crafted tunes expressed with effortless joy.”