Andrew Bird — ‘Break It Yourself’: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Mar. 13, 2012
In the past, multi-instrumentalist genius Andrew Bird has recorded songs that have had sheer layers and layers of sounds, with violin strings on top of guitar strings on top of dense percussion claps, that emerge and weave seamlessly through each other.
However, Bird’s new album, Break It Yourself, released under new label Mom+Pop (Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian, Metric), has songs complete with frameworks that are quilted, each instrument its own, but coming together with every reverberating strum. Bird keeps it rather simple on the new album, but every stitch is sculpted carefully and meticulously.
It is especially apparent in the opening track, “Desperation Breed,” a quiet yet echoing display of craftsmanship, and a rather beautiful wrinkle of anguish in the tone and words that Bird sings: “In the sorrow without peace/without peace, without peace/we keep breeding desperation…”
Break It Yourself is less poppy and happy-go-lucky than the likes of Noble Beast, and might be borderline boring for some. However, any fan of the whistling master will be able to appreciate Bird’s newfound subtlety and familiar tendency to experiment with different sounds, mirroring his pre-Armchair Apocrypha days.
Literary lovers might also be disappointed by Bird’s downplay of words, toning down his typical intellectually driven verses. Instead of his European-inspired sounds, he trades those in for a more gypsy folk, rural and old-timey mood, especially in tracks like “Danse Carribe,” “Give It Away” and “Lusitania.”
Throughout the album, Bird seems to be wrestling with something he wants but knows he shouldn’t and maybe can’t obtain. Although, after five solo albums, he is finally acknowledging himself on his sixth and immersing that self-discovery into his music. No more games, no more complicated vocabulary, just him.
More than ever, Bird enters the realm of love. On the simple track “The Sifters,” Bird asks, “What if we hadn’t been born at the same time?/What if you were 75 and I were 9?/Would I still visit you?/Bring you cookies in an old folks’ home?” It’s a nice change, showing that Bird has started to put his focus into his lyrics rather than just his melodies.
“Polynation,” the 45-second instrumental song that harbors on the light air of a new beginning, ends with the soft coos of a baby. It sums up the sense of transformation and rebirth that is apparent throughout Bird's album.