Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Record Label: Fat Possum
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Authentic indie rock is hard to find. Often the genre seems forced and almost pretentious in an attempt to be trendy or swank; a disquieting attribute that has created a divide between those who listen to music to be cool, and those who listen to music because it’s cool. But then there’s Andrew Bird, an artist who possesses an authenticity that burns through the fourteen song collection that comprises his fifth solo album Noble Beast.
From the homemade sounds of the opener, “Oh No,” to visions of Imogen Heap in “Anoanimal,” Bird effectively intertwines Americana, indie, alt-country, rock, folk, and blues to create an album bursting with character. “Masterswarm,” which is where the beach meets the desert, conjures up images of Johnny Cash and Jack Johnson, complimented by salsa underpinnings and beautiful violin. “Fitz and Dizzyspells,” a light and uplifting acoustic-driven track, shows Bird’s Beach Boys influence, with steel-sounding guitar and percussion, while “Effigy” dabbles in the psychedelia of Bob Dylan and the 60’s, adding baroque air with dancing violins.
Aside from the honest musical freedom exhibited throughout the record, Bird’s ability to add variance to his vocals also contributes to the album’s excellence. Indeed, “Nomenclature” shows Bird’s ability to shift from bluesy vocal sliding to a Matt Bellamy-esque vibrato. “Souverian,” the album’s opus at over seven minutes long, feels much like a story, the first half being chapter one, the second chapter two. Chapter one dabbles in folk, while chapter two contains sweeping melodies and strings as Bird sings “Under the elders, the older get younger/the younger get over, over the elders,” all in all a splendid musical journey.
Despite the former’s grace, the song plays second fiddle to “Not a Robot, But a Ghost,” separating itself from the rest of the album in its use of electronics creating atmosphere in the vein of Radiohead. With the majority of the upbeat song using Latin-inspired percussion, the song resolves with eerie strings and synthesizer which could easily double as exit music for the latest episode of “Lost.”
Name-dropping isn’t necessarily the cool thing to do in album reviews, but I would be amiss if I didn’t say that Andrew Bird collectively reminds of Bob Dylan, Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, and the Beach Boys all rolled up into one, creating an album that’s unique, refreshing, and authentic. And although this is my first experience with Andrew Bird, I can assure it won’t be my last. You can bet I’m downloading his last solo effort, Armchair Apocrypha as we speak.