Review 5 (for shizzles): Annnnd…..rew Bird!

Posted on September 6, 2011

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Blues and folk can be quite the workout

Fingerlings the first

I delve into the next album, Fingerlings, with a renewed sense of excitement. Afterall, Andy is an excitingly varied musician. Also, I am in a new city. Left the gorgeous brilliant skies and sands of Bali and plunged into the grimy bustle of Shanghai.

OK, whatever you say about the dude, he has a way with song titles. I love “The Water Jet Cilice”, “Scythian Empire”, “Dear Dirty”, “Ethiobirds”. And, I hear banjos and whistling and a lot of guitar-string-plucking sounds. And sound-wise, it doesn’t much different from Eggs. It seems like, from the careening eclectic vintage-store mash of goodies in the earlier albums, Birdz has settled on one sound he likes best, a folksy, vocal-heavy style. Which is really good in itself, but I miss the experimentalist fun of his previous albums. Maybe I shouldn’t be listening to everything all at once.

Ah, “Measuring Cups” is nice. Got a good beat, a catchy melody, kooky lyrics, and it’s easy to follow. And “Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” is back, beat-ed up and jaunty and at parts slightly urgent. I like this version. He’s got some signature whistling going on too.

Here’s “Nervous Tic” live at Nashville. Check out the comment that calls him the Chuck Norris of modern music. Lols. He is adorbs, though.

Armchair launches off with a quiet beat and soft, driving-on-the-highway vocals. It’s nice, pleasant if somewhat pedestrian soft-rock, a bit Ben Folds 5, in a way. In “Imitosis”, the jaunt comes back! It goes into a chipper flapper-style refrain, complete with actual bells and whistles. This is the Andrew I like best. Soft rock landscape dotted with quirky spots of whistling, tune samples, off-the-wall lyrics. Also, andrew sounds older. Seriously! Now he sounds like someone who might look like Ben Affleck. The next few tracks are tuneful folk with a catchy beat. “Armchairs” stands out with lush guitars and sad vocals full of longing. The lyrics are heartbreaking – “Grab hold of your bootstraps, and pull like hell
until gravity feels sorry for you, and lets you go/ As if you lack the proper chemicals to know/ The way it felt the last time you let yourself fall this low.”

Post-post-listen reflection (what they really sound and look like):

In the midst of my AB-bonanza someone told me Andrew Bird was the world’s most awesome whistler. And as the albums rolled by, he went in my mind from weedy skinny dude with handlebar mustache to Ben Affleck. I tell you, it was not with little anticipation that I googled him. And…

He could be hard of hearing, or it's just a size thing

Oh my! He is a skinny, small man with dapper 3-piece suits, and a… shall we say, kookily sculpted look to him. And on his official webpage I find that he has given a TED talk. I love TED talks, and the introduction they give him is impressive – “Musical innovator Andrew Bird winds together his trademark violin technique with xylophone, vocals and sophisticated electronic looping. Add in his uncanny ability to whistle anything, and he becomes a riveting one-man orchestra.”

Yes, I completely agree with the “musical innovator” label. This guy is some serious creative force in mish-mashing musical styles. (His webpage also has a section titled A/viary, a collection of his performance vids, which is awesome and endearing and really cute. His photos page is called Birdwatching. Heh.)

His bio is fascinating as well, revealing that Birdman first picked up the violin at age 4 (1977, do the math), and then proceeded to immerse himself in “Hungarian Gypsy music, early jazz, country blues, South Indian music and more, as well as the discovery of an uncanny whistling ability”. As said, can’t call him narrow. And Music of Hair, which I could not stand, was actually self-released. Imma go back to it and see if I still feel the same.

Another surprise – Thrills, Splendour and Swimming were all band productions. The Bowl of Fire disbanded in 2003 and that heralded Andrew B’s solo career and significant change of musical style. Aha. I did miss the Big Band grandoisity of those albums, but I must the more sparse style of his later albums grew on me too.

Conclusion:

Will put on music player? When I heard Music of Hair first I was convinced this was the worst music I’ve reviewed since I started. But yunno, while I was still reviewing the albums I actually did put Thrills on my music player. So, the answer is YES, for shizzles.

One of my fav Andy B’s:

Posted in: Andrew Bird, Review