March 2, 2012

Review: Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself

Andrew Bird is one of those artists that doesn't need to evolve too much in his music to keep his audience captivated. Instead of enticing us with a multitude of different instruments (because lord knows with his talent he could), he uses his regular ingredients, a violin, acoustic/electric guitar, laid-back drum pats, and his lovely vocals/whistling. Occasionally he'll foray into electronic territory, but only occasionally. But after nearly 10 years of wonderful music, has he still got it? I've only just recently started to ask myself this.

The problem I have with this record is that a lot of these songs don't grab me like some of his older stuff did and does. It's not that it's necessarily worse than his previous material, I mean he's hitting all the right notes; the instrumentation is as fantastic as always, as are a lot of the hooks and the lyrics, what's not to love? Theoretically I should be digging the hell out of this, but I guess it's only just occurred to me that that spark has started to fade a little. By the end of this record, I was left with the same lukewarm, empty feeling I was with Noble Beast. It's not mediocre by any means, but none of these songs caught my attention like Tables and Chairs, or Fiery Crash.

There were definitely a lot of bright spots here, like 'Desperation Breeds', a cold opener that swells beautifully and succeeds with its violin trills and plucks, the incredibly catchy 'Eyeoneye', the classic-Bird-sounding 'Lazy Projector', 'Lusitania', a graceful Annie Clark duet, 'Danse Caribe', and 'Near Death Experience Experience', which has one of my favorite lyrics on the album; "And we'll dance like cancer survivors, like the prognosis was 'They should have died'".

The majority of the second half is this album's main weakness. 'Orpheo Looks Back', 'Sifters', and 'Fatal Shore' seem like they were whipped out of thin air in very little time (though I know he's had Fatal Shore for a while), while 'Hole in the Ocean Floor' is a dull track without a memorable melody to support it's length. Give It Away is a pretty weak one too, and the beginning of that track sounds like a recycled melody.

In 2005, Bird was on top of his game with 'Eggs', his most adventurous record to date, but his albums since then haven't quite matched up to that masterpiece in my mind, and Break It Yourself only solidifies that notion, but there are plenty of unforgettable tunes here, and I'm pretty sure most long-time Bird fans will love this. I guess I can't complain much. I'm pretty damn sure he's still 'got it'.


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