Armchair Apocrypha Review

artist: Andrew Bird date: 05/09/2008 category: compact discs
Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
Release Date: Mar 20, 2007
Label: Fat Possum
Genres: Adult Alternative Pop/Rock
Number Of Tracks: 12
With Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird takes another developmental departure from his previous works, though not nearly in as drastic a fashion as his previous album-to-album jumps in style.
 Sound: 10
 Lyrics: 10
 Overall Impression: 10
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overall: 10
Armchair Apocrypha Reviewed by: robbie, on may 09, 2008
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Andrew Bird's 2007 album 'Armchair Apocrypha' is, in my opinion, sublime. He is a pretty unique artist, falling into the genres of baroque pop and violindie. It is impossible for me to be completely objective about this album, but I will do my best. The songs tend to be fairly simple in their construction, usually based around a single catchy riff on the violin or guitar (e.g. 'Heretics', 'Imitosis'), and following a basic structure of verses and choruses with the occasional bridge or solo thrown in too. As is often the case though, simplicity breeds incredible music. Bird builds layers around the main violin part(s) using guitars, drums and the odd synth or sound effect. He also makes good use of his inimitable "theremin-like" whistle on various songs, either for an intro ('Darkmatter') or for a solo ('Cataracts'). Some songs do deviate from this general formula, putting a heavier emphasis on atmospheric (in the good sense) music, synths and/or sound effects. The song 'Simple X', the music for which was written by Martin Dosh, is based around a synth riff and a looped drum beat. 'The Supine' and 'Yawny at the Apocalypse' begin use a base of violins playing long slow chords (of some sort) on which Bird builds up further violin layers, using both pizzicato and bowed melodies. The sound is capped off (in most songs) with Andrew Bird's voice, more on which in the next section. // 10

Lyrics: Andrew Bird's lyrics are incredibly unique. They often take otherwise untouched subjects and come at them from even more untouched angles. Among the subjects he sings about is mitosis ('Imitosis'). Cell division may not seem like an interesting topic for a song, but Bird comes at it in a strange way, following the thoughts of "poor Professor Pynchon" with regard to his scientific experiments. Strange, yes, but impressive. It gives us the memorable lines "and turned into a playground a petri dish/where single cells would swing their fists/at anything that looked like easy prey". Another topic Bird covers is the torture of a heretic ('Heretics'). The lyrics are typically unconventional, "bored holes through our tongues, turn a clamp on our thumbs", yet all this pain he describes doesn't make the song into a depressive dirge; instead it is a set of interesting lyrics to fit an upbeat song. Whether there are deeper meanings behind these superficial descriptions is hard to tell, a quick internet search will throw up some fairly involved discussions about this, but the cleverness of the lyrics is constantly audible. It is refreshing to hear songs that don't follow boy-meets-girl formula 1. Bird is far more likely to sing about maths or science than your average love song (listen to the songs and a huge mathematical/scientific bent to his lyrics becomes obvious). And finally, a comment on his voice. It is a good voice, no doubt, though it's not the world's greatest. However it fits his songs very well, and I certainly can't imagine the songs with anyone else singing them. // 10

Overall Impression: The style is not a huge departure from his previous album 'Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs', though it is perhaps slighty, and only slightly, I can't even pin down what makes me say this, more mature. Andrew Bird is difficult to compare to any other artist. The most common comparisons tend to be with people like Final Fantasy, mainly because he is also a violinist and they both use looping stations to create their live shows, or Beirut. Although there are some similarities, these artists are all very different and distinct in their own rights and, though grouped together under baroque pop, are unique in themselves. That said, if you like Final Fantasy, Beirut, The Arcade Fire, or any similar artist, then you should definitely give Andrew Bird a try. It is hard to choose my favourite songs, but I will narrow it down to just four: 'Plasticities', 'Heretics', 'Armchairs' and 'Simple X'. It will be plainly obvious that I love this album, but I have attempted to put that aside to give you a sense of what the album sounds like. I would strongly recommend this album to anyone and everyone. // 10

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