At its best, the act of making music can be a kind of stock-taking, an inventory of all the things and people we’ve ever loved and been loved by, hurt and been hurt by, the places we’ve travelled. In the hands of Alagoas — helmed by Brooklyn and São Paulo based husband-wife team Katherine and Wilson Brown — those emotional signposts grow to become skyscrapers, towering musical monuments to their shared memories. Alagoas’ debut Bird Alert is an album of deceptively complex, starry-eyed love songs born from a desire to escape the everyday and find, within the ordinary, an extraordinary core.
Alagoas came into being on a snowy morning in 2009, when Katherine and Wilson began writing songs together using only an old police dispatch microphone and a Moog synthesizer. Their goals were simple: to create a space separate from their otherwise busy lives, to write songs about the smaller moments that become a relationship. Soon they were enlisting collaborators and working late into the night with a small army of instruments. The Browns are omnivorous listeners, and their multi-pronged approach comes through in Bird Alert’s gleeful contradictions: singalong hooks soaring over odd time signatures, whispered intimacy soundtracked by hard-charging drums, acoustic instruments glittering with electronic atmosphere.
Lead single “Ghosts” practically bursts forth from the speakers, with Katherine and Wilson’s staccato melodies weaving in and out of drummer Stuart Bidwell’s polyrhythmic clatter; “Brighton” begins with fingerpicked Americana (with the teasing lyric “I liked you the first time / when you were kind of shy”) and blooms into a full bodied electric stomp, complete with horns, pounding drums, and sweetly percolating synthesizers. When Katherine and Wilson sing it’s often in unison, invoking the cheek-to-cheek intimacy of a Brazilian samba in one moment (the watery, shapeshifting “Lazy”) and an alternate-universe family band the next (the countrified gallop of “Copycat”).
Much of the fun of Alagoas’ Bird Alert lives in the band’s elegantly bustling arrangements—their approach is of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink variety, but it’s employed with a disarmingly deft touch, elevating lyrics like “Love on Division”‘s “I can’t get you out of my head” refrain from a shy confession into a declaration, shouted from the rooftops. Bird Alert is the sound of soulmates channeling their love into a widescreen, deliriously catchy celebration, and it is a joy to behold.