Friday, February 06, 2009

Andrew Bird Balances Complexity and Simplicity on latest CD

In a time when electronics are the preferred medium for most popular music (and a good part of indie music), Andrew Bird's crisp violin solos over instrumental harmonies are extremely refreshing. On Noble Beast, each song ebbs and flows naturally, each one a self-contained soundscape that allows the listener to step out of his or herself for a few minutes. He manipulates each song to a great extent: songs have long introductions, surprising changes mid-way through and extended ambient outros. Instrumental interludes bridge several songs together creating cohesion on the album.

Bird's unique style as a musician makes him stand out when compared to his contemporaries. He builds his songs from the ground up using a loop station; he builds off of his own pizzicato violin playing, bowed phrases, whistling and voice. He brings new depth and a breath of life to otherwise stale notions. He uses his violin in fresh and innovative ways on the album, both as an accompanying and melody instrument.

Andrew Bird has also surpassed many of his contemporaries lyrically. In an interview with Drowned in Sound, Bird said, "Language is dead. Long live language. I'm not sure if this is mourning or celebrating the dilution of words." Much like The Decemberists and The Hold Steady, known for their verbose approach to lyrics, Andrew Bird explores a vast vocabulary while still fitting words in rhythmically to compliment his music.

Melody-driven songs like "Privateers" and "Fitz and the Dizzyspells." They have choruses that you will find yourself humming, or much like Bird, whistling. Songs like "Anonanimal" and "Not a Robot, but a Ghost" are allowed to change and grow with the passage of time. Harmonies with female vocals on the track "Effigy" are elegant-just enough to make the track stand out.

"Anonanimal" is by far the most engaging track on Noble Beast. The rhythmic interest holds through the whole song, exposing the ears to unexpected but brilliant variations. A brief interlude during the song is the most mind-blowing part of the album. The lyrical content of the song is thought provoking—when and how will humans evolve? Indeed, many songs on the album reference back to the idea of the natural world and the role that different creatures (especially humans) play.

The album is very warm and comforting. It is something that I could easily come back to month after month and still find satisfying. And, with each listen, I expect to hear new elements to this complex music. I am sure that as I mature, the album, too, will grow with me.

Noble Beast was released in several formats: CD, deluxe edition CD (with a bonus disc of instrumental works entitled Useless Creatures) and double vinyl LP. For an in-depth look at the album, track-by-track, with the artist himself, check out For more information about Andrew Bird, visit his website at The Chicago-based musician will visit Montreal, QC and South Burlington, VT in the spring on his upcoming tour.

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