When a lead singer possesses such a distinctive burr, it’s often easy to overlook everything that sits behind it. Not so on Life Cycle of a Falling Bird, the parentheses friendly-debut album from Aberfeldy-based Star Wheel Press. For while frontman Ryan Hannigan’s larynx purrs like Aidan Moffat on the happy pills, the songs on here are so finely crafted, so wonderfully nuanced, it’s but another instrument in a superb alt-country orchestra.
Hannigan is joined by a medley of strings: banjo, slide guitar, pedal steel and fiddle on 15 literate and buoyant tracks, which are melodically simple, but beautifully composed. There’s a touch of Whiskeytown circa Stranger’s Almanac about opening track Railway Lines (the North Carolinans’ spectre hangs heavy over much of the record), and Betamax Waltz is a real lyrical treat – funny, clever and impossible to shake, hours after spinning.