Futurebirds recorded its sophomore album, Baba Yaga, in fits and starts between tours, giving it an unmistakable live feel; not sloppy, but not polished either, and revved up with the momentum that a band probably only finds on the road. Pedal steel, reverb-laden guitars and straight-ahead beats leave no doubt that this is psychedelic Southern rock, straight out of Athens, Ga. And, in a way, Futurebirds' self-aware, contemplative lyrics, nasal vocals and layered harmonies sound a little like a deeper-South version of My Morning Jacket.
Baba Yaga requires more than one listen. The songs, each clocking in at five minutes or more, feel long and, unfortunately, all have similar mid-range tempos that seem to blend together. The effect can be a little soporific. And, perhaps because nearly all the band members have contributed songs, not all of the tracks rise to the same level of craftsmanship. The ones that do shine in unexpected and insidious ways: The sound grows on you, and with each listen you're pulled further into the hazy, slightly intoxicated world the musicians seem to inhabit. You're compelled to listen harder, and to try and understand the muddy lyrics. Once you do, "Virginia Slims" reveals itself to be a tune about growing up fast and high, and "St. Summercamp," which sounds a bit like the Dead's "Wharf Rat," offers a laid-back tribute to lazy days and simple pleasures.
In folklore, Baba Yaga is a perplexing figure: A woman neither good nor evil, a forest-dweller living in a house perched on enormous chicken feet. While the connection isn't immediately clear between this witchy figure and Futurebirds, a close listen shows that the album can befor better or worse—just as beguiling and shadowy as Baba Yaga herself.
Futurebirds plays the Top Hat Thu., Jan. 23, at 10 PM. $8.