Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
Why is it that contemporary pop artists always seem to fall into one of two categories? They’re either a raging douchebag or an NPR limpet. Of course, someone like Stephin Merritt could qualify as an NPR douchebag, thus nuking my thesis, but let’s call him the hybrid that proves the point. The multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird is far too likable to rate the former epithet, but for an NPR limpet he’s pretty fucking badass. If you’re alert, catch the documentary Fever Year, one of the best recent films about artistic process and the beautiful agony of it all anyone’s made in years, all focused on the final grueling push in Bird’s 165-date year of touring precariously: “I’m either sweating bullets or I’m freezing all the time.”
You’d never suspect any of that from this often sublime new release, a sprightly cycle of string-sweetened pop songs that convey a playful existentialism while delicate, chiming melodies seep into shuffle-repeat mode on your mental iPod. The tone is sparkly, in a way that probably sounds amazing on some audiophile hi-fi system but is nearly as good on a car stereo. The putative Wimp Factor is frighteningly off the charts, yet the dude’s a real musician with a Renaissance Man streak that trumps any mellow-phobia.
Break It Yourself