Premiering today on HighClouds, the breathtaking first release from the Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, and musician Oropendola is perfect snow day listening.
In its name, in its lyrics, and in its music, Oropendola is very intentional. The brainchild of Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, and musician Joanna Schubert, the project is named after a bird native to Central and South America whose moniker translates roughly to “golden pendulum.” On “Stillness,” the debut release from Oropendola, Schubert builds upon this idea of a pendulum as the track swings back and forth between different ideas and influences. The track is soft yet powerful, a beautiful song perfect for winter listening, a track to guide you through snowstorms, a song for spine-chilling nights.
Though Oropendola is a newer project (the release date for the debut album of studio recordings hasn’t even been set yet), Schubert is no stranger to performing. The musician has played keys or sung back up for a laundry list of interesting projects– most notably Half Waif, the project of ethereal fellow-Brooklynite Nandi Rose Plunkett. Oropendola‘s own influences are myriad– from Kate Bush to Joanna Newsom, musical theater to prog rock, and R&B to pop punk. More than anything, Schubert is joining an exciting group of multidisciplinary artists who refuse to adhere to standards of genre or form. Similar to out-of-the-box musicians like Cassandra Jenkins, whose powerful 2021 album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature mixed spoken word and other curious elements alongside more traditional musical components, Schubert cannot be contained to one box or descriptor.
“Stillness” begins with Schubert playing an ethereal melody on a celesta. In a breathy voice, the artist continues, “January air heavy / The restless oropendola is swinging / Where are you, my sweet? / Trills the feathered fella / Singing a spring song.” Layered vocals pile onto themself, bursting into the next verse, “Don’t you worry / Winter won’t last much longer, dear / But while it’s here / Slow down.” Here, Oropendola sprinkles in some deep breathing noises, almost merging into ASMR territory as mouth syncopates and exhales in rhythm. Like a flower in spring, the track continues to blossom and grow, adding in clarinet, harp, piano, synths, and even flugelhorn. “Do you feel this stillness?” Schubert repeats, as the track spirals into a beautiful, instrumental ending. Alongside co-producer Zubin Hensler, Schubert has spun out a delicate and dreamy masterpiece.
Oropendola is in a curious phase– There are a lot of interesting elements in conversation, but it’s currently unclear what overarching discussion is taking place. It will be fascinating to see how the project presents in a full-length album. For now, we simply have the poetic, serene, and celestial “Stillness.” And for now, that’s enough. Discover “Stillness”, premiering today on HighClouds, and watch Oropendola play a stripped-down version of the track live from the snowy wilderness below.