Originally just a bonus disc in the deluxe edition of 2009’s Noble Beast, Useless Creatures has finally been re-released and cemented as a stand-alone Andrew Bird album. But Useless Creatures isn’t another batch of indie-pop gems. Instead, it’s an instrumental album featuring Bird, drummer Glenn Kotche of Wilco and renowned jazz bassist Todd Sickafoose.
Bird is known for his skill on the violin, but by no means is Useless Creatures a classical album. Rather, it’s what Bird calls an “ambient experimental record.”
Ordinarily, that description would conjure up images of electronic music. And really, it’s not too far off. Useless Creatures, recorded in his barn in Chicago, is just far more organic. It’s not hard to imagine the staccato violin melodies and orchestral backing in “You Woke Me Up!” being replaced with blips, bloops and sweeping synthesizers.
Useless Creatures manages to have a diverse range of styles without feeling thrown together. Not many artists can put whistling (“Nyatiti”), oriental melodies (“Carrion Suite”), and African polyrhythms (“Hot Math”) on the same disc and get away with it, but Andrew Bird is certainly one of them. The album is a great listen front to back —- the individual tracks are great, but the album is an even better experience when listened to in its entirety.
The great part of Useless Creatures is that it’s what you make it. It’s a perfect soundtrack for late night studying and early Sunday mornings, yet when brought to the forefront, it can be an extremely engrossing album.