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Bird's Noble Beast flies high

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
(Fat Possum)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 11, 2009
Brimstone Howl

Review by Tony Bonyata

On Andrew Bird's fourth proper solo album after parting ways with his previous band Bowl of Fire, the Chicago singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist weaves yet another intricate tapestry of indie-folk-rock interspersed with rich chamber-pop.

Classically trained as a child through the Suzuki Method (which teaches young children music through encouragement and nurturing) Bird went onto graduate from Evanston, IL's Northwestern University in '96 with a bachelor's degree in violin performance. And like all his recorded work, his violin playing is breathtaking throughout these 14 tracks - at times taking the lead and at others allowing the 10 accompanying musicians to shine. Oddly enough, though, it's not only his virtuosity on the violin that he's renowned for, but also that of his whistling, which he injects into many of his numbers without affect or pretense. The 37 year-old musician's voice has also aged well over the years, picking up a little of the thespian warble of Rufus Wainwright as well as the calming otherworldliness of Radiohead's Thom Yorke.

But wonderful instrumentation, jaunty whistling and a compelling set of pipes aside, Bird manages to seal-the-deal with a collection of both hauntingly beautiful and lilting rock compositions steeped in engaging lyrics, indelible melodies and pop hooks that, at times, are reminiscent of some of pop's greatest songsmiths - most notably the late, great Harry Nilsson and Paul Simon.

While the jazz tendencies of his early career have given way over the years to much broader musical ventures, Bird still manages to interject a bit of jazz theory into the folk-pop of "Masterswarm," as he lets his violin playing communicate through a weaving solo, not unlike any number of jazz greats would use their soloing instruments as their own unique 'voices.' Of course, there's no need for concern for those not into the 'language of jazz,' as this complex and charming musician delivers enough catchy songs to keep you whistling long into the night.

Related articles:

Andrew Bird / Apostle of Hustle - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI April 2007
Andrew Bird - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI February 2006
Andrew Bird - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI March 2005
Andrew Bird - Exclusive interview - Andrew Bird lets his thought's soar February 2006
Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs - Album review

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