Sparkbird – “Sparkbird”


2023 introduced me to an abundance of new artists, several of them releasing multiple tracks that firmly caught my ears. One such example is Sparkbird, who consistently proved enamoring across multiple singles this year, exuding an emotional and gorgeous chamber-pop and folk styling helmed by the Portland-based artist Stephan Nance. Following standouts like “Disembodied Mind,” “Envy,” and “November,” the project’s latest comes in the form of a track also entitled “Sparkbird.” To no surprise, it’s another standout.

A thematic emphasis on “birds and the passage of time,” stirs alongside a flourishing production from Josh Frigo. Additional instrumentation on the track comes in the form of drums by Mathias Kunzli (Regina Spektor), bass by Jeni Magana (Mitski), strings by Yoed Nir (Regina Spektor), and woodwinds by Josh Plotner (Marvelous Mrs Maisel).

The initial lyrics convey the marvel and beauty of discovery — “sparks fly every time I identify species…” — alongside gentle piano pulses. A gradual swell into Plotner’s ravishing woodwinds signals the incoming orchestral-friendly vigor, traversing seamlessly alongside Nance’s smoothly melodic vocals. Strings emerge thereafter, as the instrumentation melds together with gorgeous qualities. “Sparkbird” is another thorough success from the artist of the same name.

“While it doesn’t mention any birds by name, this song is a tribute to birding and the joy that birding has brought to my life,” Nance says. “A ‘sparkbird’ is the bird that ignites your obsession with birds. For me, it was a Western Tanager: an incredible, bright yellow bird with an orange head and black wings, like a feathered flame. Over time, birding became an important part of my self-care and mindfulness practices.”

This and other tracks featured this month can be streamed on the updating Obscure Sound’s ‘Best of November 2023’ Spotify playlist.

We discovered this release via MusoSoup, as part of the artist’s promotional campaign.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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