San Jose’s Curious Quail might just be the Bay Area’s next big hope

OK, I’ll get to the review, but first, a short hokey story. Ahem.

Full disclosure: about a dozen years ago I used to hang out with this guy, Mike Shirley. He had quite a knack for his guitar but like most things one gets into at the age of 17, you never expect someone to continue to do it for any longer than a few years. I haven’t talked to Mike in years, until I stumbled upon his Bandcamp page completely randomly while looking for pictures of a record store on Bascom Avenue I used to go to all the time.

So. While my own guitar (sadly) sat unused in a storage unit somewhere in the San Fernando valley for the majority of the past decade, Mike had been honing his skills in San Jose. He always had a knack for melody – that I remember pretty clearly. And in only one sense did I think his album “Instant Gratification” needed more: it lacks a certain production sheen that one becomes accustomed to sifting through album after album of studio bands. It’s clearly recorded in home studios (and still sounds great), but if there’s one thing that’s quite apparent: it’s that Mike Shirley can actually craft a real fucking song.

I don’t expect this kind of thing to pack stadiums – this certainly ain’t Arcade Fire in terms of sound nor scope – but it might just be the perfect late-summer soundtrack for driving around the suburbs in a second-hand car with some friends.

“Disappointed Smiles” and “The Glow” are the highlights here and the sound is evocative of what would happen if (bear with me here) Owl City didn’t suck, or perhaps Ben Gibbard grew some balls and smoked a joint once in a while. Or perhaps early Smashing Pumpkins through a 2012 filter. Curious Quail might not be the type of sound I’d pick up immediately – lord knows I listen to enough weird-ass music – but I have a feeling there’s a lot of people who might really enjoy it. There has to be a label out there willing to give this a chance. If this is what he’s done on his own in home studios, it would be awesome to see what he can do with a big(ger) budget.

Needless to say, it’s quite awesome to know that old friends are doing great things. It was a real pleasure to hear what Mike has been up to. If the next thing he does is anything like this, we’ve got a lot to look forward to from one of the Bay Area’s best upcoming songwriters.

Anyway. Great job, Mike. Beer on me next time I’m in town, tell Jessica I said hey, and I’m sorry for asking your sister out in 2001.