Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird follows 2007's critical success Armchair Apocrypha with an intricate beauty of an LP that's by turns introspective and instinctive, but always unique. Bird isn't a singer-songwriter in the conventional, Dylanesque sense of the word: he doesn't allow his vocal personality to dominate. Instead, the real charm of the record lies in Bird's extraordinary attention to musical detail: each track has its own ambience painstakingly created through layers of instrumental tracks of which Bird's trademark sardonic voice is just one.
This atmosphere is fleshed out by whistling and wordless backing vocals, while Bird's trademark awkward phrasing holds down lyrics that occasionally sound like they might fly off on the wings of their own weirdness. Bird concerns himself with the building and the breaking down of a pastoral idyll, underpinning his virtuoso violin work, evocative of natural landscapes, with edgy, nervous rhythms (most notably on the melancholy borderline-funk of standout Anonanimal) and the occasional painfully raw peal of feedback low in the mix. On this eighth effort, Andrew Bird creates a Noble Beast of a record with almost human complexity. [Gillain Watson]