- ARTWORK BY GRANT CONBOY
- The album cover for "Wonderland" released by Maybird on Aug. 6, 2021.
On “Wonderland,” singer-songwriter Josh Netsky worked with his bandmates to keenly tap into Alice’s perspective as she steps out into a different plane of existence. The first track on the record, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” is wordless and features a droning keyboard that lulls listeners into a trance-like state.
As the sounds of animalistic, cackling voices wail in the background and an eerie keyboard tone oscillates between frequencies. A soft-spoken voice begins to coo a melody, and a large “crash” closes out the song, mimicking the sensation of falling into a strange, unexpected dream.
The second track of the album, “Lost in Wonderland,” is ushered in through a powerful bass line, paired with the sound of synths that shift between comforting and unsettling the listener. Netsky’s voice is finally heard singing the lyrics, “Help me / I can’t find my way home / No direction seems right / All I hear are echoes.”
On “The Queen Has No Heart,” listeners are transported through a psychedelic wormhole as spectral synths dance alongside an electronic drum beat that seems to slowly increase in volume. As Netsky sings the title phrase, trumpets and saxophones pop in and out, providing an unanticipated texture to the track’s celestial cacophony.
The first few songs on the record act as stepping stones to represent Alice’s transition from earth to “Wonderland.” On the fourth track, “Waiting for Whatever,” Netsky’s crisp and clear vocals seem to signify that she has made her full immersion into this new realm.
On this standout track, the background vocals are rich and lush, providing an intoxicating effect reminiscent of indie rock band Beach House. The bass line throughout “Waiting for Whatever” is sparse but distinctive, with a Tame Impala-esque quality.
Netsky delivers the lyrics: “Waiting for whatever / And I have no doubt / I’m going to wait forever / Until it comes around.” The melody will probably remain in the listener’s head long after the song has stopped playing.
While Maybird errs more toward the experimental with spoken-word pieces including “Alice Loses Her Temper,” tracks like “When I See You in Wonderland'' demonstrate the band’s skill at writing catchy, captivating indie rock songs.
On “When I See You in Wonderland,” xylophone sounds gently accompany the endearing words, “All the troubles and countless failures / Well they disappear into the void / When I see you.” Between emotive, heartfelt lyrics and bright piano parts that sway through the verses, Maybird evokes the emotion of pure, unadulterated bliss.
With “Alice, Listen to the Birds Sing,” listeners are immediately greeted with imagery-rich lyrics. Since his solo project as a teenager, Netsky has consistently proven to be a skilled wordsmith, bringing fantastical stories to life through song.
In this stripped-down track, he assumes the role of Alice’s spiritual guide, singing, “Now that I've cleared my mind of blue / I remember you / You’re Alice in Wonderland / Battling your ancient psyche / In the mountains of the moon / Trying hard to understand / The blue moon.”
During the final moments of the song, a harpsichord chimes in underneath an enrapturing ’70s-style guitar solo from Sam Snyder, who adopts a stylistic quality similar to T-Rex’s Marc Bolan.
There’s an almost carnival-like feeling to “Wonderland,” but without any trace of being campy or disingenuous. Songs like “Love” include such dreamy, imaginative lyricism that the listener may feel that they have been transported back in time to an unfamiliar territory.
Other tracks like “Ice Skating through a Frozen City” are almost spiritual. As the melody of a synthesized horn introduces the song, operatic vocals flush the background, creating a sanctimonious atmosphere alongside Netsky’s provocative lyrics, “There’s nothing for you / There’s no one for me / I skate through a frozen city.”
If the first few songs of “Wonderland” were meant to provide an entry point for Alice (and the listener) into a new plane of existence, the final two tracks seem to operate as a path back to reality.
On “Open Your Eyes,” the instrumentation builds from Snyder’s elegant acoustic guitar parts to an electric-symphonic mix of warped vocals and dizzying drum tracks. After all the elements meld together and the instrumentation is at its peak, the song abruptly stops — emulating the sensation of shaking oneself awake after a long night’s sleep.
On the closing track, “I’ll Miss You When I Wake Up,” Netsky’s words are fitting: “I wonder where you’ve gone / I’ll miss you when I wake up.”
Ending the album with Carroll’s own prose, Netsky reads, “So she sat on with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality.”
While “Wonderland'' is clearly an album with its spirit tied to Carroll’s novel, the record’s messages are relatable for anyone experiencing the disorientation of re-entering society. For many over the past year, the story of a girl being thrown into a dystopian reality may resonate more than ever before. “Wonderland” skillfully captures the essence of Carroll’s Alice, and creates a world of its own that listeners will want to keep visiting.
Maybird’s “Wonderland" is currently available for streaming exclusively on Bandcamp.
Emmarae Stein is a freelance writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.