Armchair Apocrypha, 180G Black Vinyl LP
At first blush, this record is not nearly as captivating as Andrew Bird's previous three albums, but in his inimitable and subtle way, the Chicago singer-songwriter has here made yet another intricately detailed collection of songs. While Weather Systems and The Mysterious Production of Eggs found him discovering and exploring new territory, this is the album where he's built his house and now settles in and gets comfortable.
In a subgenre stuffed full with mediocrity, Bird has developed a singular style that frees him to add or subtract anything he likes from it-- no matter what he does at this point, chances are you're never going to mistake his music for anyone else's. On Bird's latest album, Armchair Apocrypha, guitar is far more prominent than it once was-- something Bird has been working toward in concert for a couple of years now. This addition deepens the texture created by his core instruments-- pedal-controlled loops of pizzicato violin, drums, and glockenspiel. With the addition of overdubs-- waves of multi-tracked violin, eerie whistling, and dizzying violin cadenzas-- and heavy layering, it all becomes nearly symphonic in scope.
The only thing that tosses and turns more than the music is Bird-- his lyrics are drawn from the kinds of thoughts that keep one up at night: "Do you wonder where the self resides/ Is it in your head or between your sides?/ Who will be the one who decides/ Its true location?" he sings on "Darkmatter", pondering the unknowable without resorting to pedestrian uses of the words "soul" and "God." His wordplay is in top form and serves as a perfect foil for the tension and release of arrangements like that on "Armchairs", where a piano pushes around chunks of listless violin. -Pitchfork