By Ginny Winters-Troche / Special to The Recorder
“I’m really an instrumentalist who sings words and if you care to pay attention you might enjoy them,” claimed Chicago-born singer/songwriter Andrew Bird in an opinion article he wrote one year ago while he was composing his fourth solo studio album, Noble Beast, released in January of this year. Of course, he was right-on in describing his music.
A rare thing to hear in the age of synthesizers, Andrew Bird’s newest album is a mixture of sound you’ve probably never heard before. An avid musician, Bird has been known for looking deep into the music of different periods in history – his last solo album, Armchair Apocrypha, was very blues while the album before that, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, was varyingly post-punk. Throw into the mix the fact that he is a classically trained violinist and there’s really no reason that every music major or lover wouldn’t own this CD.
Except, sadly, if you like to hear whiny vocalists “sing their hearts out” and completely overpower the background music, then this CD probably isn’t for you, considering that one disc out of two doesn’t have lyrics or words at all.
Simply sampling the songs on the Internet is all anyone would need to know that Andrew Bird meticulously worked on and revised his songs to make sure no instrument (first disc vocals included) overpowers another unnecessarily or randomly. Keep in mind that just because the music blends, doesn’t mean these songs are lullabies either.
In the very first song, “Oh No”, Bird begins whistling and scatting; two of many background instruments. Ultimately the song builds to a climax in which he combines light acoustic guitar plucks with every day whistling and expert violin chords. And even better, it all works; you want to keep listening.
Another track on the album, “Masterswarm” is full of built-up tension, awkward chords to accentuate words and beats, and full on pauses that instruments take one at a time to sort of stutter the music into focus. But then again, with over eighty songs under his belt, one might get the feeling Andrew Bird knows what he’s doing. Proof of his composition talents most definitely lies in Noble Beast.