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Review: Nate Kinsella Gets Personal on Third Birthmark Album, 'Antibodies'

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There must be something in the Kinsella family genes that causes an endless outpouring of musical concoctions, a desire to live, speak and breathe through their music. Tim, Mike and Nate Kinsella are all best known for their work as Joan of Arc, but each has so many solo projects on the side that it’s hard to keep up. From Owen to Mata Hari, their cumulative output is enough to put any other artist to shame.

Birthmark is Nate Kinsella’s baby, and his alone. On his third album under the Birthmark moniker – following on from The Layer and Shaking Hands – Nate creates what may be his most personal record yet. There’s a rather subdued, confessional tone to most of the album, as if we’re reading Kinsella’s private diary in song format, and at first you’d be forgiven for relegating some of the songs to filler status, their delicate structures lending themselves all too easily to background music.

On a couple of tracks he shakes off this first impression, and these songs serve as an important gateway into what could all too easily be seen as an album that’s too intensely personal and internalized for its own good. Many of the tunes still remain buried beneath backwards strings and electronic doodlings, though, and Antibodies is never an easy album to warm to. Only on the final track, ‘Big Man’, is the sound finally stripped back to a minimalist bass and vocals – and by then we’re already swimming in the sounds of Kinsella’s mind.

Anyone who already knows Nate Kinsella’s music will know that he’s a rare talent, and Antibodies does nothing to alter that. For the uninitiated, however, it’s an intricate and subtle experience that requires multiple listenings to truly plumb its depths. Just like the vaccinations we endure every winter, these antibodies can be both a blessing and a curse.