7ebra, “Bird Hour”
By Will Ainsley · May 12, 2023 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Is it time to conclusively redraw the boundaries of the all-too-prescriptive term “bedroom pop?” After all, garage and house music doesn’t need to have been played at their original namesakes—New York’s Paradise Garage and Chicago’s Warehouse—to be deemed legit. Could an album concentrate, redefine, and update the genre of bedroom pop if it wasn’t literally made in a bedroom? Bird Hour, the excellent debut from Swedish duo 7ebra, comprised of twins Inez and Ella Johansson, suggests it might.

As noted in the album’s liner notes, “the origins of 7ebra [started] with Inez whiling away the hours playing guitar in her bedroom,” anticipating Bird Hour’s particular feel, its grain. The arrangements are sparse (each instrument seems siloed in its own wool-lined space), with production as warm and desiccated as a dusty sunlit sill. Supposedly lacking a studio’s arsenal of sonic material, bedroom pop is typically made with limited resources—and though 7ebra did record in a studio (an important thing to note), they also reconfigure familiar sounds throughout: no-nonsense, slightly plastic-y organs; the clean-to-dirty-to-clean guitar tones; those dehydrated drums that bloop, clack, and tss around an uncanny valley between real and fake. This minimalist approach is not imposed, but instead suggests a kind of deliberate, aesthetic hyper-restriction.

There’s nothing slapdash about Bird Hour, though. The languid, lullaby-ish melodies on “Rude Boy,” “Done With The Day,” and “Secretly Bad” are deceptively simple; only a faultless convergence of feeling and precision achieves that super-subtle trace of grit in the delivery of the line “tell me a story where you pretend.” Rich, deftly-layered harmonies on “Lighter Better” and “Lean” overlap in such a way that they could be composed of five voices, as opposed to two. Often panned left and right, the harmonies’ spacing suggests the sisters taking respective spaces around the same microphone, perhaps huddled together in a shared bedroom, a sock for a pop filter.

Sisterhood seems woven into the lyrics too. Sly, shy, and diaristic, they’re filled with reflective phrases like “how the hell am I supposed to feel?” that seem directed inwards, or at a listener already familiar with the context. Some lines have the stop-start prosody of a story relayed to a confidant, the adoption of different registers to flesh out the roles; a key dichotomy seems to be between what was said and what could have been said. The scattergun topics and heavy repetition of thoughts (“Wakey Wakey” and “Born To Care” both contain one line repeated ad infinitum) suggest either internal monologue or unloading onto someone close. “Secretly Bad,” “Stripey Horsey,” and “I Have A Lot To Say” are characterized by sentiments and admissions often only possible in private. The close, airless quality of the vocals (notched with the faintest telephone EQ) suggests voice notes recorded just after a messy emotional climax.

Though 7ebra’s music both evokes domestic space and seems created in domestic space, their praxis demands non-bedroom pop techniques in order to properly construct such perfectly-formed pocket symphonies. In stretching its parameters slightly too far, Bird Hour arrives at a meta, almost hyperreal version of bedroom pop, a kind of bedroom pop sublime.

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