Andrew Bird | Break It Yourself

Mom + Pop (2012)  
By RYAN REED  |  February 28, 2012
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Big freaking surprise: Break It Yourself, Andrew Bird's seventh collection of intimate chamber-pop, is . . . beautiful. Full of the stylistic hallmarks that have dominated his solo work for ages (his warm, winding tenor, acoustic fingerpicking, violin plucks, idiosyncratic lyrics, layers of high vibrato whistling), yet sleepier and rougher around the edges, it's exactly the kind of album one imagines Bird could whip up on a lazy Sunday afternoon after a cat-nap. (Mini-violin instrumental "Behind the Barn" sounds like it might have actually been recorded behind a barn). Not a second on Break It Yourself finds the Chicago multi-instrumentalist branching out sonically or testing the limits of his songwriting — and in some ways, it's disappointing to see such a strong talent playing it this safe. Nonetheless, Bird treads water like a pro. Opener "Desperation Breeds" ranks among his finest songs — blooming from a glorious lo-fi folk haze into a laid-back jazz-fusion groove that bubbles and fizzes into string-fueled ecstasy. "Danse Caribe" morphs from insular strumming to tropical perkiness, sheets of violin and chilly whistles surging over limber percussion and bass. If there's one noticeable shake-up on Break It Yourself, it's the simpler arrangements, downplaying virtuosic instrumentals and winding interludes in favor of songs that (in spite of their low-key acoustic flavor) punch with more clarity. The strummy, lightly rocking "Eyeoneye" sounds like his most commercial move to date, with a hummable melody and radio-primed chorus. And the haunting, minimal "Sifters" could soundtrack a Grey's Anatomy finale, though Bird transcends lyrical cliché in a way that's unmistakably his: "What if we hadn't been born at the same time?/What if you were 75 and I were nine?/Would I still visit you, bring you cookies in an old folks' home?/Would you be there alone?"

ANDREW BIRD + PATRICK WATSON | House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | May 6 @ 7 pm | All Ages | $35 to $45

  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Andrew Bird, Andrew Bird,  More more >
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