Under the generic umbrella that is indie rock, adequate singing is abundant, good singing a welcome change, and great singing incredibly rare. With Swedish husband and wife duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, great singing is the focal point of a folky, percussion-driven sound that is as remarkable as it is sparse, an empty wall of words and drums that manages to be difficult, pleasant, and intriguing at the same moment.
Wildbirds' singer Mariam Wallentin devours octaves and feasts on scales, flipping from a guttural wail to an unassuming, gentle croon in the blink of an eye. Without her perfect pitch, vocal control, or deliberate delivery, there is no chance the band's self-produced debut, Heartcore, would resonate so strongly. Yet, as Wallentin weaves her way through each verse and chorus with devilish wizardry, it doesn't seem that farfetched to think that maybe somewhere down the line she met the dark lord at a Mississippi crossroads at midnight: Her singing is that good.
And the music is nothing to shy away from either. Andreas Werliin plays the drums with technical precision, using random time signatures, difficult fills, and tons of cymbal work to perfectly fill the negative space around Wallentin's voice. Knowing when to play and when to back off and let Wallentin do her thing, Werliin possesses a calculated efficiency—most songs have a limited instrumental structure that lends to their very earthy sound and does justice to the band's hippie-ish name.
David Berman of the Silver Jews made famous the quote "All my favorite singers couldn't sing." While I consider that statement spot on—I've found myself repeating it on numerous occasions while listening to everyone from Bob Dylan to Biz Markie—after being exposed to the beauty that is Wildbirds & Peacedrums, and, more specifically, Mariam Wallentin's voice, I can now safely say that most of my favorite singers couldn't sing.