Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reviews:: Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Andrew Bird has a new record out. It was leaked early and often, but that doesn’t take away from the final output. Andrew was initially upset that people were breaking up the record and posting MP3s, and after numerous listens I can see why. The album is sequenced beautifully and Andrew, as usual, has subtly reinvented himself. He’s stepped away from the jazzy brushed drums and uses a funkier, hip-hop back beat driven style on most of the tracks.

He’s been touring with Dosh for a long time, and I think the collaboration has not only helped Dosh get his music out, its helped Mr. Bird. While he still uses his violin like a katana and is able to transform his whistling into a viable form of instrumentation, the percussion on this record is as crucial to the mix as any other instrument. I can easily say that this record is my favorite Bird release. There are no gaps, no lulls. Start to finish, it’s great.

The record opens with a bang or a Fiery Crash, a simple track with galloping drums and double tracked vocals. Bird has always been a word poet, using vocabulary to set tempo, but this effort is more focused by the contrast of the speed of the snares and keys to the long, slow bowed violin.

The album continues with a danceable feel with the picked violin and drums of Imitosis. The breakdown on this song is amazing, with stabbing violin and guitar soloing combined with rim shots that jump around your headphones, forming into xylophones and effects, guitar with well placed starts and stops.

The first single – Heretics - is more traditional Bird, using all of Andrew’s classic elements; soaring oohs and ahhs, violin, minimal instrumentation on the verses, with nice swells on the choruses. The song piles in more than you can imagine, considering it’s only 3 minutes and change, but that’s what Bird does so well. He finds sounds that work, uses and discards them before quickly finding another.

One of the highlights of this record is Plasticity. The hushed beginnings and chamber-esque whistle eventually gives way to guitar heavy crescendos while Bird revisits a common lyrical theme of cubicle life – when he played this in Vancouver last year he said that he wrote the lyrics in a salmon colored hotel room as he ate salmon – and the fakeness life can offer.

I was surprised to see Simple X – a Dosh composition – make the record, but the success of the song on the road makes it easy to see why it's here. The IDM looping and drums are distinctly Dosh, but again, this collaboration is very symbiotic. The duo has really learned how to work together. When we interviewed Martin earlier in the year, he said most of these artists give and he takes, but as you hear his influence on Bird’s sound you can’t help but realize it goes both ways.

He also benefits from using Haley Bonar to add the female touch to a couple of songs, most notably the beautiful Spare-Ohs. Their vocals play nice together, and Bird uses a more conventional sound that will warm the hearts of beautiful who loved Bird's earlier work.

You might notice a couple of tracks that surfaced on Fingerlings 3Scythian Empire and Dark Matter – but both have been reworked and are different enough to worthy the inclusion.

This album is amazing. It’s heartfelt, emotional, diverse; essentially everything we’ve come to expect from Andrew. With all the great records being released this year, I’m hoping this doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

We are going to respect Andrew's wishes to not have MP3s floating around the net, as this record is best heard in one sitting.
** Note – song title of the year could be Yawny at the Apocolypse - **

Posted at 12:54 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Jeff did sayeth:

I'm really looking forward to this, but I can't bring myself to download it just yet...


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