Kelly Nesbitt's debut on L'animaux Tryst is a beautiful lullaby of an album, which I mean in the best of all possible ways. Really, a dreamy haze permeates the entirety of "Beaks that Could Smile" and Nesbitt's subtle, well-crafted music makes it all to easy to be drawn into the enticing world of this album. While most songs make use of only her amazing voice and acoustic guitar, Nesbitt still manages to incorporate elements as far-flung as field recordings and kazoo into her folk sound, and makes it all work together. The disc is beautifully packaged and limited to just 50 copies, so I highly recommend tracking down one of the few copies that still appears to be floating around on the internet.
The disc opens with the lighthearted "Wishy Washy," which is a minimal song backed by a simple acoustic guitar line. Nesbitt declares, "I'm an animated fool who believes / while my loveliness fades from memory / and impostors grab hold of me." This is just the first of many of the great lyrics. "Glorified Renter" is the next song and it shifts into much darker lyrical content and atmosphere than the opener. She sings, "biting the bullet, leaping with faith, / if this is growing up then I'll do what it takes / in the dirty old stinking old town." Really, in a small way, these two songs illustrate a key part of what makes "Beaks that Could Smile" so enjoyable, as Nesbitt is able to shift mood and sound frequently, while still making everything fit. She plays around with style and instrumentation, but always keeps a deep, personal center to her music and lyrics.
There's something special in every one of the songs on this album, but I'll try and focus on just a few more tracks. In particular, one standout is "Earbait #4," which has lyrics that were allegedly taken "from a note found in a beer can in a parking lot." What makes this track great, aside from the crude, funny lyrics, is the use of light strings to back up Nesbitt's acoustic guitar. Also, the song is punctuated by background recordings of laughing voices and the ambient sound of crickets, imparting a calm, dusky feeling. Another winner is "Tabloids," featuring dual lead vocals, light guitar, and an eerie saw part. In the lyrics, Nesbitt begs, "no don't let the tabloids cause your cancer / or the fluorescent creep."
It might sound silly, but really, there aren't enough nice things to say about this album. It's emotional, it's thoughtful, it's pretty, and at times, it's even funny. What could be better? "Beaks that Could Smile" is a an extremely strong, ambitious effort and it leaves me excited to hear more music from Kelly Nesbitt. Get your hands on this one, if you can. 10/10 -- Matt Blackall (6 May, 2008)