Andrew Bird is a fussy one. He makes music that sounds like it was painstakingly composed, recorded and mixed. Notes are meticulously plucked upon his violin. Every whistle is precisely blown through perfectly puckered lips. Every beat, nuance and mood has it's place. Every song is fussed over till it's just right. This has been Andrew Bird's modus operandi ever since the first Bowl of Fire release Thrills, in 1998. With his newest effort, the breezy and beautiful Break It Yourself, Mr. Bird has left fussy outside the barn door and let the songs take us where they may.
`Desperation Breeds' starts the album off with reverbed harmonies, as if ghosts from the past are beckoning us to enter. Then plucked acoustics and Bird's nuanced croon takes us by the hand and into this new world he's created. After the short but sweet instrumental `Polynation', Andrew Bird takes us into the beautiful world of `Danse Caribe'. Easily one of Andrew Bird's best tracks to date. The loose, free and collaborative vibe Bird was going for on this new album does this track justice. `Danse Caribe' floats in our ear and takes us to a sandy, warm place. With it's caribbean vibe and floating rhythm, "You go mistaking clouds for mountains", says the whistling man with the violin. Indeed. 'Give It Away' is reminiscent of something off of his 2001 effort Swimming Hour. A mid song rhythm shift gives this track a nice change of scenery. `Eyeoneye' is like The Walkman's `The Rat' recorded by the Punch Brothers, at first. With heavily-reverbed electric guitar and an almost angsty tone to Bird's voice(well, as angsty as Andrew Bird can get), this is the most straightforward rock song on the album, possibly of his career to date. A great slab of indie rock goodness. Fear not, halfway through we get some patented Andrew Bird whistling and glockenspiel. "Lazy Projector" sounds like the Cowboy Junkies covering the Pixies. Great song with beautiful backing vocals by the always lovely Nora O'Connor. `Lusitania' is a dusty little number with big drums, strummed acoustics and guest vocals by St. Vincent. A truly beautiful track and reason enough for a St. Vincent/Andrew Bird collaborative record. Buried towards the end of this album is an 8 minute beauty called `Hole In The Ocean'. This song combines all of the elements that make Andrew Bird's music so special: songwriting prowess, compositional muscle and cinematic storytelling through sound and fury. Musically, it's very reminiscent of Noble Beast's instrumental companion album Useless Creatures. Andrew Bird recently wrote and performed the soundtrack to the film Norman. This song is the perfect example of why he's made for scoring film.
At times, I find myself pining for that fussy songsmith that gave us such gems as `Plasticities', `Heretics' and `Fitz and Dizzyspells'. Hugely ornamented, overly anxious and catchy songs that fill every nook and cranny in your cranium. But I'm starting to like this new, laid back Andrew Bird. Break It Yourself is a folksy, breezy and loose collection of songs. Not overly done. Not too sparse. This time around Mr. Bird lets the songs go in what direction they may. And we're all the better for it.