Andrew Bird“Noble Beast”
One look at Andrew Bird’s bio, and you can’t help but wonder just how eclectic and original his music is. On “Noble Beast,” his eighth solo release, he adds acoustic guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel, violin and … whistling?
While it’s true that Bird is considered an above-average whistler and he uses it to great effect on most of the songs, the music on “Noble Beast” could best be described as “chamber pop,” a relatively new term in musical circles. The sparse production, plaintive vocals and plentiful violin give the music a serious and somewhat classical quality. Not quite folk and not quite pop, Bird inhabits a genre all to himself.
“Anonanimal” starts out with a mournful acoustic melody but soon adapts a Zero 7 attitude with rapid chilled-out percussion. It’s typical of many of the songs on “Noble Beast” that shift gears halfway through. The modern beat continues on “Not A Robot, Not A Ghost,” a track that could easily fit onto Thom Yorke’s “Eraser” album, minus the electronics.
Bird’s melodies are memorable even though at times it sounds like he’s trying to remain invisible in the mix. “Fitz and the Dizzy Spells” is the closest thing to a true pop song on “Noble Beast.” The song reaches back to the AM radio dial after making a brief stop at The Beatles’ “Revolver” album. This is where one can’t help but apply words like creative and different to Bird’s music.
Some versions of the CD come with a bonus disc called “Useless Creatures” which contains nine instrumental tracks. It’s more of the same detailed production but has a greater emphasis on upbeat rhythms and adds a new dimension to the release.
The whole CD has a certain low-fi charm. If there’s one criticism to be heard, it’s the unintelligible lyrics and muddled vocals that are buried deep in the mix. But “Noble Beast” is the kind of CD that you can play on a cloudy day when it looks like it might snow at any moment, but the snow never comes. It’s equal parts atmospheric and challenging, but certainly never boring.
Rating: W W W 1/2