When critics claim something to be your most “accessible” album, it usually means the more listener friendly. Which is great for acquiring new fans, but also great for angering the fans you already had. So is the two edged sword of growing popularity.
Andrew Bird is a talented mother fucker. I definitely do not use that term lightly. Like many of the currently worshiped folk musicians (see: Colin Meloy and Sufjan Stevens) Bird manages to pen what I like to refer to as scholar rock. Meaning, the lyrics require a bit of brain power to decipher and appreciate and they definitely need some well-readedness to create.
Lyrical beauty aside Andrew Bird can definitely do two things beautifully. The first is play the violin, which one can blame his university degree in violin performance. The second is whistle, which I’m not sure what to blame that on but I’m sure that I love it.
Which perfectly demonstrates the tension that exists in Bird’s music. On one hand there’s complexity. Difficult lyrical content, string arrangements, and that sense of “I’m understanding this but I don’t think I’m understanding this” that so many intelligent musicians seem to create. On the other hand there’s simplicity. I mean, it doesn’t get much more basic than a whistle. Couple that with a minimalist approach to instrumentation and you’ve got yourself an Andrew Bird conundrum.
Specifically, this album is catchy and unique. Melodies will stick in your head like rubber cement. What’s nice is they won’t stick because they fit the traditional rock n’ roll equation. They’re Bird’s own world, and we’re just visitors in it.
The first five tracks burst in with back to back appeal and for a moment you think you’re going to have a flawless album on your hands. Though the name of number 6, “Nomenclature” is impressive, the track itself isn’t so. The first of two under 1 min instrumentation tracks bleeds into the brilliantly named “Not a Robot, But a Ghost” which you will to be better than it truly is. “Anonanimal” is a gorgeous track that will wear on your body and mind, but perhaps that is where the album should end. Instead it drags on for four more tracks.
In the end, Andrew Bird delivers on two ends of the spectrum- but the fact that he’s got points on the “epic” side of it makes Noble Beast a victory in my book.