Andrew Bird : Break It Yourself
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Andrew Bird : Break It Yourself

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There are those who appear different and those who are different. Chicago-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird is undoubtedly peculiar, genuinely and endearingly so. And these days, Bird is a level above most of his experimental/indie contemporaries. Being a violin virtuoso hasn’t confined his reach, but illuminated his aspiration of creating strangely harmonious music that seeps into each human sensibility. Bird is attracted to doing things the difficult way because of the danger and precariousness that leads to greater alertness, but he also espouses a deep fondness for minimalist music, which – for such a technically-attuned maestro – is a liberating trait.

With influences spanning classical music, country, blues, jazz, gypsy, bluegrass, experimental rock, chamber pop and traditional folk music, Bird incorporates violin, guitar, glockenspiel, mandolin, electronic music and whistling into his repertoire like no one else. Bird’s literate and verbose lyrics affirm his appreciation for the written word, but as much as he adores poetry and archaic language, his unique wordplay sprouts more from a longing to use words that haven’t been overused, corrupted and devalued. However, on his sixth solo album – Break It Yourself – it’s some of Bird’s more direct lyrics that prove most resonant. In Eyeoneye, Bird sings: “You’ve done the impossible now / Took yourself apart / Made yourself invulnerable / No one can break your heart, so you break it yourself.”

Desperation Breeds is a mesmerising, slow-burning beauty in which already piercing words implode with stunningly vivid imagery and graceful string arrangements flirt with tempo shifts that leave one in a perpetual quiver. Danse Caribe is an uplifting, cathartic gem that narrates the transformation of “a shameless child bandied by stiff cross currents” to one who “exiled your close advisors” and is “through with pasifizers (sic)”. Bird unleashes his groove-laden charm in Give It Away while Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) turns tender ballad Lusitania into an affectingly memorable duet.

Despite Bird’s accomplished move from a classical background into experimental alt-folk/indie terrain, each new release poses the question of whether he’ll release something close to ‘accessible’. The answer, once again, is “not really”. There are moments in which a pop sensibility rises to the surface, but Bird is far too rebellious and forward-thinking to worry about his pieces being accessible or even likeable. What becomes evident is that each new album allows the listener to feel closer to uncovering Bird’s progressive vision and humanity’s existential mysteries.

Bird writes romantic songs without being romantic and writes aching songs without professing ache. Only an artist with Bird’s finesse could soundtrack the frightening proposition of a crashing airplane to a tango, as he does in Near Death Experience Experience. Bird has written some of his most beautiful string arrangements for Break It Yourself – an album that proves why Bird is a rare genius, vital artist and heart-wrenching songwriter. There are few artists deeper or wiser than Bird; in fact, he’ll make this 60-minute listening session feel more enlightening than your three-year Philosophy Degree.

BY CHRISTINE LAN 

Best Track: Hole In The Ocean Floor

If You Like These, You’ll Like This: Have One On Me JOANNA NEWSOM, Noble Beast ANDREW BIRD, The Rip Tide BEIRUT, I Am A Bird Now ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS, Metals FEIST.

In A Word: Meditative