Anyone who has seen the covers of Jonathan Wilson's three solo albums can't deny that the man has a decisive style he likes to work from, melding the extravagant with the eccentric. Listening to his latest LP, the 80-minute opus, Rare Birds, it's incredible just how Wilson holds it all together with such skill and such a straight face.
An accomplished producer (Conor Oberst, Deep Dark Woods, Father John Misty) and instrumentalist (a member of Roger Waters' backing band for his latest tour), the Laurel Canyon musician provides the listener with 13 tracks of future-forward rock that's too decorative to be considered folk and much too self-aware to be considered prog. But to say that Rare Birds is an ambitious piece of work would be an understatement, as many of the tracks drizzle multiple layers of instrumentation, harmonies and time signatures on top of one another, as even his choice of guest musicians remains diverse, bringing in Father John Misty, Lana Del Rey, Laraaji and Lucius.
Although Wilson struggles at times throughout the album — specifically on tracks like the over-emotive "Sunset Boulevard" and the new age-y "Living With Myself" — to avoid sounding bloated and tacky, there's more to love here than to shudder at, including the classic rock homage, "Trafalgar Square" and the electronic-tinged "Hard to Get Over". It's clear that Jonathan Wilson's naked ambition has reached a zenith, for better and for worse, with Rare Birds. (Bella Union)