Andrew Bird, "Fiery Crash" (YSI link)
Andrew Bird, "Scythian Empires" (YSI link)
I'm new to the music of Andrew Bird, which is kinda sad since this album, Armchair Apocrypha, is the dude's 10th release and he has a hardcore following. But, you gotta start somewhere and this is the place for me. To be honest, if it hadn't been for someone's recommendation, I would never have given this a chance. One listen and it just seemed a little too mellow and far out of my comfort zone, the stuff I read constantly highlighted his amazing lyrics and retro sound (swing, early jazz, etc.) and his time with the Squirrel Nut Zippers didn't help matters. But, I gave it a few more listens and it started to work more and more for me.
From some reviews I've read, it sounds like this album, his first on the Fat Possum label, is quite a departure from his original albums, so I'm not sure I can be of much help to people schooled in those. Not to mention the fact that songs here are reworkings of previous songs, all of which probably makes this more interesting for long-time fans. The sound's not easy to classify, straddling the line between indie, folk, classical, it really seems like the stuff that could make waves with the NPR set, indie kids, those into the singer-songwriter scene, jazz and classical fans, a wide range. This is not a bad thing; it's more an indication that this music could appeal to lots of people, none of it is abrasive or too experimental, the lyrics are witty and literary.
What made this a winner for me, however, was the way that Bird is able to make music that isn't pop, yet it can be incredibly catchy. "Fiery Crash" is a great example, with its subtle change of pace on the refrain and its wonderful guitar and organ work. The only references that come to mind are Belle and Sebastian, that mixture of beautiful sounds, great lyrics, catchy hooks. "Scythian Empires" has a much more political tone, with its references to exiting empires and Halliburton attache cases. What makes this one of the album's best for me is Bird's voice, so fragile and beautiful. There's no anger here, just a sadness at what has happened. It works perfectly, elevating the haunting lyrics.
I'd definitely recommend this one, it's an excellent album one that will keep bringing you back for one more listen. The only thing that keeps it from making that upper echelon for me is the lack of an edge both musically and lyrically. Especially on the longer songs, it just leaves me drifting. Buy your copy here, you won't be disappointed. If you really wanna dig into Bird and his music, I can't recommend the Official Unofficial Andrew Bird Fansite more highly, an amazing resource for new and old fans. Let me also take the time to shout out and thank my girl TB, who reminded me of this album and recommended it. She's got the wine game on lock, I think she may be looking to take over the music game too. Watch out.