Looking for a summer jam to play with the windows rolled down? Bird Skulls, the new EP by local indie-rock band Company, is not it. Drenched in dark atmospherics and dealing heavily in themes of death, the 20-minute collection of four songs by songwriter Brian Hannon is well-suited to the relentless rain and gray skies we've seen in recent weeks.
"I feel like the music I like, the music I listen to, is really dark and sad, and I feel like my previous work was super polished and produced-sounding," Hannon says. "It wasn't rough enough for me." Hannon has veered far away from indie-pop territory since his last release, the full-length Dear America. The four songs on Bird Skulls were written after the December 2010 death of former Company drummer Kelly Grant, and the loss of a close friend hangs heavy in the lyrics. On the track "Mt. Pisgah," he sings, "Took you to my brother's graveyard/ His body rests below the earth/ To heal these wounds, now we must labor/ But you will not share the work."
Hannon plays most of the instruments on the recordings, but he still leans heavily on the Charleston music community. Ryan Zimmerman (of Brave Baby) and Dan McCurry (director of the Hearts and Plugs record label) both did production work and recorded tracks in their homes. Royal Tinfoil drummer Marshall Hudson supplied the eerie album art. And Joel Hamilton, the quirky mastermind behind Mechanical River, has his fingerprints all over the standout track "Curse," which he produced. With Hannon's vocals soaked in reverb over ominous synthesizers, nylon-string guitar strums, and sampled drums, it is Hannon's most powerful and haunting musical statement to date. "All is lost," Hannon sings, and you feel it might be true.
Bird Skulls is streaming for free on the Exit Stencil Recordings Soundcloud page, and it will be available on iTunes and Spotify August 6. Company will play an EP release show alongside Can't Kids on Aug. 24 at Tin Roof, and CD copies will be available for purchase at the show.