Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
US Release Date: January 20th, 2009
Record Label: Fat Possum Records
He's a classically trained violinist, and he knows how to whistle better than 99 percent of the population. Since he's made a name for himself as solo artist, Andrew Bird doesn't lack on musicianship kudos. And on Noble Beast, his newest album, Bird does more of his great stuff. So silky, intelligible and soaring, atmospheric is a lenient description of what he can do with arrangements and his voice, a humble and rich instrument. He's a leader in the contemporary art rock and the baroque pop genre, and there's a good reason for that.
Like his previous albums and 2006's Armchair Apocrypha, this full-length is a high standard of talent, genre fusion and intuitiveness. Yet, on Noble Beast, there's a note of accessibility that gives Bird the chance to bow sweet to new listeners. It's a combination of faster tempos and a wider berth of the folk influence. Simply, it's catchier. You'll still have trouble keeping up with his extensive, graciously weaving glossary, but the speeds are easy to digest. "Fitz & Dizzyspells" works in the throws of indie rock chops like The Shins; a violin that rocks more than sips at its whine, guitars that stroll about the rolling beat. It's Andrew Bird, certainly, but it's almost a new leaf. The fuzzy electronics on "Not A Robot, But A Ghost" are out of place and less organic than the rest, but it's the only track on the record that doesn't mesh.
Noble Beast's finest moments stem from repetitive and pulsating guitar parts or pizzicato, the sharp plucking of a violin's strings. Like on "Tenuousness", the acoustic guitar shuffle and yanking quips are a premium example of Bird's elegant folklore. The repetitive guitar line of "Anonanimal" is straight bad-ass, gets down in the middle and then sweeps along to the end with a post-rock trademark. Both are outstanding. The somewhat hidden star of the album - understandably out-shined by the talent of the artist it contains - is the production (although that's nothing new). Every detail is explored in a panoramic view, and there's nothing that goes by unattended, particularly the percussion. Bouncy, like stuffed from a home-cooked meal, each track sounds freshly cut.
It's doubtful that Andrew Bird's breezier, relaxed approach on Noble Beast will swoop mainstream radio because he's too talented anyway, but more importantly, these are assured Andrew Bird works. They swirl around the same into floaty, majestic pieces. They're part gypsy, part orchestra, wholly complex and all smart. And I'm not surprised.