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Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.75
Production 9.25
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 90%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.63
Musicianship 9.5
Lyrics 9.75
Production 9.25
Creativity 9.38
Lasting Value 9.38
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Average: 93%
Inside AP.net

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

Reviewed by: Tom Good (04/12/07)
Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha
Release Date: March 20th 2007
Record Label: Fat Possum Records


The first information I ever heard about Andrew Bird was from a friend who described him simply as an “ethereal, whistling deity”. Given the unique nature of the description, I decided to check out Andrew Bird’s new release Armchair Apocrypha and was surprised to find that his music was nothing at all what I had expected. In fact, after repeated listens, the album and artist are different from pretty much any other CD I have encountered this year. After years of struggling with alternating band line-ups and experimenting on his solo albums, Bird has hit his stride, creating a style all his own. Passionate, unique and timeless; Andrew Bird’s music oozes with a pleasant hipness through a combination of shoegazer indie rock melodies and an unbelievable variety of song structures.

Bird’s background as a multi instrumentalist and an avid follower of jazz and blues has no doubt contributed to the cornucopia of styles present on Armchair Apocrypha. A mix of influences ranging from Hungarian Gypsy and middle eastern music to classic American folk have been bonded together into an album that, despite the amalgam of inspirations, sounds so naturally cohesive that you wonder why it hasn’t been done before. The record begins with a jangly guitar riff signaling the start of “Fiery Crash”, a track that Bird wrote as an incantation to protect himself from a plane crash. With a wall of vocal harmonies surrounded by the orchestral instrumentation of violins and guitars, the track is a perfect introduction to those who may not be familiar with Bird. “Imitosis” displays the ability of Bird to take a style both classic and familiar and update it for a new generation without sounding forced. Combining soulful vocals reminiscent of Nina Simone with a funky drumbeat emanate a subtle cool that is sure to get feet tapping. “Heretics” is one of the more upbeat tunes on the album and also one of the best, showing Bird’s penchant for crafting poetic lyrics and singing them in ways where the softest utterance can evoke the biggest reaction. The haunting vocal harmonies and violin work create a beautiful atmosphere that raises the bar of what honest indie rock can be. Part of the endearing nature of the music can be attributed to the production, which is spot-on for the type of music being played. It allows for every instrument, from the crashing drums to the soft vibrato of Bird’s whistle, to be clearly audible and in line with the rest of the mix. The album closes with “Yawny And The Apocalypse”, a poignant instrumental that acts as a perfect, melancholic red curtain to the performance just taken in.

Throughout the gamut of styles and moods explored on Armchair Apocrypha, not once does it seem forced or out of place. A xylophone and a glockenspiel in an indie rock song? Sure, why not, if it sounds good. Bird takes odd instrumentation to a new level while maintaining credibility and honesty through lush song structures and lyrical vignettes. How many times have topics such as mitosis and osmosis been discussed in a song and actually sounded cool? That alone is a testament to the lyrical prowess found on Armchair Apocrypha. While maybe not raised to the level of a deity, Andrew Bird has managed to craft one hell of an album that is a great departure from the onslaught of watered down material that we are bombarded with every day. One thing it can be faulted for is that it may detract listeners who are not as accepting of different genres of music who might find some of the influences of the songs a little too far fetched. However, this is a small criticism that will not affect the open minded. Both inventive and appealing, Armchair Apocrypha packs something for just about any fan of the genre and an intellect that simply cannot be denied.

Tracklisting 1. Fiery Crash
2. Imitosis
3. Plasticities
4. Heretics
5. Armchairs
6. Dark Matter
7. Simple X
8. The Supine
9. Cataracts
10. Scythian Empires
11. Spare-Ohs
12. Yawny And The Apocalypse
RIYLSufjan Stevens, Rufus Wainwright, Modest Mouse
Listen to Andrew BirdMyspace | Fat Possum Records Site
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 15
03:45 PM on 04/12/07
#2
jaimej
too caught up in the beautiful
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Great review T! Love that it meant so much to you.
07:07 AM on 04/13/07
#3
FeynmanWannabe
Take Ecstasy With Me
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I'm a big Andrew Bird fan and really enjoy the album but I'm only so-so on the review. My main point of contention would be that you simply make it sound harder to enjoy than it is in reality. A lot of time was spent referencing the different styles within the music, as well as the different instrumentation (also these days I no longer think of using a glockenspiel as all that different haha) he uses, while only a single line was used to inform the reader that it does, in fact, sound cohesive. Despite all of the things that one doesn't normally find in a pop song, for the most part that's what you end up with - intriguing and unique pop songs. I'm glad you did point out the fact that with all these different styles the man can craft one hell of a catchy song. I would have also liked a few more lines on the album's lyrics rather than the vagueness of a term such as "lyrical prowess", as I think his writing is just as interesting to note as the music is. I know it's impossible to address every point in a three paragraph review. Hopefully you take this what it's meant to be - constructive criticism.

PS: You get points for mentioning Rufus Wainwright, as I'm a huge fan of his as well. I don't completely understand the Modest Mouse reference, though. haha

Glad you enjoyed (and reviewed) the album. Hope you check out the rest of his discography if you've yet to.

PPS: Sorry if any (or all) of this is incoherent - I just woke up and haven't taken my shower yet.
07:25 AM on 04/13/07
#4
Tom Good
Album Reviewer
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I'm a big Andrew Bird fan and really enjoy the album but I'm only so-so on the review. My main point of contention would be that you simply make it sound harder to enjoy than it is in reality. A lot of time was spent referencing the different styles within the music, as well as the different instrumentation (also these days I no longer think of using a glockenspiel as all that different haha) he uses, while only a single line was used to inform the reader that it does, in fact, sound cohesive. Despite all of the things that one doesn't normally find in a pop song, for the most part that's what you end up with - intriguing and unique pop songs. I'm glad you did point out the fact that with all these different styles the man can craft one hell of a catchy song. I would have also liked a few more lines on the album's lyrics rather than the vagueness of a term such as "lyrical prowess", as I think his writing is just as interesting to note as the music is. I know it's impossible to address every point in a three paragraph review. Hopefully you take this what it's meant to be - constructive criticism.

PS: You get points for mentioning Rufus Wainwright, as I'm a huge fan of his as well. I don't completely understand the Modest Mouse reference, though. haha

Glad you enjoyed (and reviewed) the album. Hope you check out the rest of his discography if you've yet to.

PPS: Sorry if any (or all) of this is incoherent - I just woke up and haven't taken my shower yet.
Thanks for the input! I agree with your points. It is difficult to explain every point of an album like this without sounding long winded so I just tried to get the basic points that I found particularly interesting across. I agree, the lyrics are something to be admired, as they are very well thought out and crafted perfectly to suit the music. There should be no doubt that I thought this is a cohesive album. In fact, I think it is one of the strongest aspects that it is so eclectic yet nothing seems out of place, that is what I was trying to elaborate on with saying that it never sounds forced. And the Modest Mouse rec is basically because I felt some of his vocal lines resemble a not as spastic Isaac Brock. Thanks for checking out the review!
08:18 AM on 04/13/07
#5
Mitch
this is water
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Good album but I think I like his previous more.
08:21 AM on 04/13/07
#6
12:46AM
is a brain in a vat
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this release is great.
08:30 AM on 04/13/07
#7
DJosef
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Good album but I think I like his previous more.

Definitely.

Armchair is good but Mysterious Production blows it out of the water.
08:44 AM on 04/13/07
#8
heartsynapse
throwing punch after punch
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I am so glad someone finally reviewed this album, as it is my album of the year so far. Good job!
08:46 AM on 04/13/07
#9
sweetavenue
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Definitely.

Armchair is good but Mysterious Production blows it out of the water.

i agree, but its almost not fair to say. 'armchair' is really good...its just that 'mysterious production' is really REALLY good.
09:04 AM on 04/13/07
CircaEnder
act appalled
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Good review and all.. but if your friend really described.. it as "ethereal, whistling deity"...im come the fuck on..who talks like that.
09:55 AM on 04/13/07
meeotch
...all we fight for
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I personally like this album more than Mysterious. I think it's more cohesive as a whole. I love it and I can't stop listening to it.
10:36 AM on 04/13/07
mma
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after reading this review, i decided to check this out. it's really interesting and i'm loving it! great review!!
05:12 PM on 04/13/07
CorporateFish
Viva la Weez
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I still don't have this, I need to check it out. Andrew Bird's the man.
09:09 PM on 05/02/07
frommelyty
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fun album.
02:35 PM on 11/08/07
doxastic
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Here's an interview about the album and environmental stuff. More environment stuff than album stuff. But it's cool to see 'em.

http://www.ecotreadsetters.com/community/speakout
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