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Andrew Bird puts new use to centuries-old instrumentation

March 23rd, 2012

Since leaving the band Bowl of Fire, Andrew Bird has rode the express train to success and hasn’t looked back. Bird’s pop-folk anthems and eclectic instrumentation have made him a hero to indie music lovers everywhere

This trend doesn’t stop with his sixth LP, titled “Break It Yourself.” Despite the rather horrendous looking cover art, “Break It Yourself” is a hypnotic gem, and is Bird’s best effort since his 2007 masterpiece “Armchair Apocrypha.”

The album as a whole does not depart too much from Bird’s signature style, but it never has  sounded this good. Bird’s combination of vocals, guitar, violin, glockenspiel and excellent whistling adds new depth and soul to his folk style. The sound is old, but the style is fresh.

Bird begins the album with the moody echoing guitar plucking of “Desperation Breeds…” The song is the perfect choice for an opening track, providing both terrific lyrics and enchanting instrumental sections. “We keep breeding desperation,” Bird sings, “in this era of thieves, who keep stealing respiration from the tenderest of trees.”

It only gets better from there. “Give It Away,” the catchy first single, is one of the best songs on the album. With its changing tempos and beautiful vocal harmonies,  it’s sure to be a hit and a live favorite in the future.

Throughout the album, Bird succeeds at every little thing he attempts to accomplish. Whether it be a love song (The lullaby-like “Sifters”) or an ode to life itself (The cleverly named and lyrically genius “Near Death Experience Experience”), Bird executes the songs beautifully both instrumentally and vocally without breaking a sweat. There isn’t a moment in the album where he stumbles.

“Break It Yourself” isn’t short on the incredibly catchy folk anthems that Bird is famous for, either. “Eyeoneye” is arguably the best song on the album. It features everything you could want from an Andrew Bird song, including epic guitar parts and backup vocals, excellent whistling and an incredible building climax. This and the toe-tapping “Orpheo Looks Back” are just begging to be sung-along to.

It’s especially impressive that while the album is 14 tracks and over an hour long, no songs seem like unnecessary filler. Even the shorter instrumental tracks have standalone quality. Every song is expertly written and performed by Bird himself.

If anything detracts from the album, it’s the fact that it’s not revolutionary or completely new in any way. But even that doesn’t stop it from being nearly perfect in every other way.

In the album’s eight-minute-long closer “Hole in the Ocean Floor,” Bird sings, “I woke with a start…to hear all God’s creatures roaring again.”

The album itself roars as well, with the confidence and technical excellence of a true veteran; a master of his field.

With “Break It Yourself,” Andrew Bird defines himself not only as one of the greatest rock musicians of his time, but one of the greatest musical composers as well.