Album Review: Songs for Birds and Bats by doubleVee

The ever strange Allan & Barb Vest continue to push rock music into absurdist niches while tightening the reins of their splendid follow-up EP

A message from the Make Oklahoma Weirder team: this article was originally written by Evan Jarvicks in 2019 and is being released as part of MOW’s “VVeirder VVinter Vault” of 2023.

OKC’s resident partners in weird return with five eccentric new threads from the rabbit hole. A tug on each unearths a different jewel of masterful song composition. Titled Songs for Birds and Bats, the new EP follows the duo’s 2017 debut full-length (and Big 50 favoriteThe Moonlit Fables of Jack the Rider. While both album names imply more a collection of varied songs than a strictly conceptual experience, doubleVee‘s latest presents a narrower focus than its predecessor.

Where Moonlit Fables ran the gamut from ensemble experimentation to big top pop whimsy, Songs for Birds and Bats dives deeper into the band’s art rock side. Drumkit beats, electric guitars, and synth keys form a sturdy foundation while horns and strings adorn choice moments here and there in typical doubleVee fashion. Spacey tones are conjured from the band’s electric instrumentation, coating most of the EP in warbly otherworldliness. Meanwhile, more acoustic aspects help root a bridge to those worlds.

Similarly, Allan and Barb Vest’s catchy dual lead vocals provide an entry point to the album’s unconventional lyricism. They navigate the tour bus through album destination points without a hitch, though they also happily steer into detours of unpredictable melodic cadence along the way. They could have easily gone Mad Hatter and March Hare with the EP, but the rock duo plays it relatively straight. The oddities speak for themselves. 

Closer “Last Castaways” may appear to be an exception, cohering to a sunny acoustic guitar as dreamy strings and conservative melodies float the song home. However, the opening line preserves the EP’s wild character, softly cooing, “When I am sober, I’ll break out a blowtorch and make us a golden clover.” By the end, something resembling a mellotron gets a full solo. Even the quaint moments of Songs for Birds and Bats have surprises in store.

If there’s any testament to the staying power of the Vest approach to music, it’s “Goldstar Redux”. This is an updated version of “Goldstar” from Built on Squares, the acclaimed 2003 album by Allan Vest’s previous band, Starlight Mints. “Goldstar Redux” is a fuller, spacier, and slightly less quirky take on the song, but its core is essentially the same. It holds up extremely well for being old enough to drive.

For all of its nonsensical leanings, Songs for Birds and Bats is remarkably coherent, even showing its cards on occasion. “Ladder for the People”, for instance, is full of commentary on power structures and class inequality, and the topsy-turvy nature of doubleVee’s music is a perfect match for such topicality. Even so, the EP still retains plenty of mystery, lacing it into every groove and turn of phrase until its narratives are twisted and spun into art rock gold.

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aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

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