The mysterious production of ANDREW BIRD
While readers of my blog may know by now that I can spew hyperbole like no one else, there's one word that I don't use lightly when it comes to music and the people who make it: "Genius." I think people throw that word around too carelessly these days, and it can be embarassing.
But Andrew Bird... he's a fucking genius. A prodigy at the violin, he started playing at the age of four. A multi-instrumentalist, he played every single instrument (except drums) on his new album, & THE MYSTERIOUS PRODUCTION OF EGGS. His soaring vocals (and backing vocals) recall a more restrained Jeff Buckley, and his lyrics are some of the most interesting I've heard in years. Check out "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left", with tons of clever wordplay like:
"Stretched out on the tarmac / Six miles south of North Platte / He can't stand to look back / on 16 tons of hazmat / So it goes undelivered" (Bird later returns to this verse but changes words around, singing "Splayed out on the bathmat / Six miles north of South Platte / He just wants his life back / What's in that paper knapsack?")
Oh yeah, and that weird Theremin-sounding spooky noise in the background? That's Andrew Bird whistling. The guy's a fucking expert whistler, too! Now that's talent. I've been reading that in concerts, if not accompanied by a band, Bird will pluck away on an instrument, sample the results and grab another instrument to create the impression that he's playing with a full band. If you find all that hard to believe, follow THIS LINK to a solo performance/interview Bird recently recorded for a Minnesota public radio station.
I've posted one or two songs by Bird in the past (I think this is go-around #2 for "Nervous Tic"). Check out my post from 2 days ago for his heartbreaking "Lull," a song from his WEATHER SYSTEMS album that has pretty much become my soundtrack these days. If I'm walking around in public and that song comes on my iPod, I'm seriously compelled to sing along every single time. If that one wasn't enough to get you to check out that album, try "Action / Adventure". It's like a piece of classical music colliding with a theme song to an old western. There's that whistle again.
But if you really want a great place to start, hunt down that MYSTERIOUS PRODUCTION album. 14 songs and each one's a keeper, like "Sovay," which originally appeared as a bonus track on WEATHER SYSTEMS. This is the SYSTEMS version, but it's not radically different from the new version. (If any fans out there can find me an .mp3 of him playing this song with My Morning Jacket, I'll gladly hunt and kill your enemies.) For a change of pace, try out the jazzy, swinging "Skin is, My". That "guitar solo" is him plucking away on his violin, by the way.
Look, my point is that the guy isn't just talented. He's a force of nature, and he absolutely cannot be trapped by the confines of genre. His most varied work can be found on four albums from his band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. Since Bird was a recent discovery for me, I haven't had the cash to check out all of their records, but one that I can definitely stand behind is 2001's THE SWIMMING HOUR. The band's previous records were full of references to everything from ragtime jazz to German music, but TSH is their most "pop" effort to date. The amount of songcraft on this record is simply insane, and trying to pick out all the styles of music that drift in and out of each song is impossible. For example, "Core and Rind" contains elements of rock, soul, funk and more... and then, at the 1:38 mark, you even get a little 60s psych rock keyboard.
I recently closed a friend's mix CD with "11:11", and I think it's the perfect way to close tonight's post. If this song, which speaks to the fleetingness of life the certainty of death, fails to seal the deal between you and Mr. Bird, I can't do anything else for you tonight.
"And the end's coming soon."
FOR MORE ON ANDREW BIRD:
Follow THIS LINK to hear a new song, "Dark Matter"
Bird's official site, where most of these pics come from
Link to a live Bird appearance on WFMU
His Allmusic.com bio
Bird's page at Righteous Babe records, where you can listen to his new album in Quicktime