×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Armchair Apocrypha
     

Armchair Apocrypha

4.5 9
by Andrew Bird
 

See All Formats & Editions

After five disparate albums, Armchair Apocrypha finally offers an Andrew Bird origin story. How did he get this way -- musical prodigy on violin, hyperliterate lyricist, folk music maven, masterful whistler, and so dark of outlook? "Dark Matter," which puns duskily on Bird's gothic purview, explains: "When I was just a little boy / I threw away all my action

Overview

After five disparate albums, Armchair Apocrypha finally offers an Andrew Bird origin story. How did he get this way -- musical prodigy on violin, hyperliterate lyricist, folk music maven, masterful whistler, and so dark of outlook? "Dark Matter," which puns duskily on Bird's gothic purview, explains: "When I was just a little boy / I threw away all my action toys / While I became obsessed with Operation." Learning to keep a steady hand, not to mention a clinical eye for the bio-medical minutiae that pepper his lyrics, surely aided the restless future musician. "Thus began my morbid fascination," Bird croons in his downcast, yet conversational way, something like Bing Crosby after a bad day at the track. Armchair Apocrypha indeed continues that fascination, rife with wistful asides such as "We are all basically alone / and what's mistaken for closeness was just a case of mitosis" and updated Dorothy Parker-isms such as "your thoughts are so soft / I could cut 'em with a spork." Musically, Bird continues in the direction of his previous Mysterious Production of Eggs, which is to say, further away from the antique-sounding retro-isms of his early records and work with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and toward a more contemporary indie-rock sound. In some ways, the music world seems to have caught up with Bird, as his bedrock sounds -- violin, breezily bowed or pizzicato; whistling; looped drums; and churning guitars -- could appear in the output of bands such as the Arcade Fire, Psapp, or Broken Social Scene. But Bird remains idiosyncratically original. Even when engaging in rare topicality, as in criticizing the Iraq debacle, he's out on a limb: Who but Andrew Bird would see the mess as offering "breathtaking views of Scythian empires"?

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Gregory McIntosh
With Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird takes another developmental departure from his previous works, though not nearly in as drastic a fashion as his previous album-to-album jumps in style. This has become expected of Bird and is one of the merits that make each of his releases highly anticipated. Where in the past Bird has impressed listeners with his violin artistry and vocal delivery, and later his use of electronic looping and whistling, with Armchair he allows the songs to breathe more on their own, using the aforementioned elements to blend into the structural integrity of the songs rather than predominately featuring each component. This is not to say his previous approaches were ineffective, but rather an observation that is one of the essential reasons Armchair Apocrypha holds together more cohesively than Bird's previous outings. Perhaps the heavy inclusion of drummer and electric pianist Martin Dosh has much to do with this cohesion; it is the first time Dosh and Bird have teamed up on a recording, though the two had been touring together with regularity for a couple of years previous to this. Dosh provides excellent propulsion as a drummer and his Rhodes/Wurlitzer playing adds a deep and dynamic warmth to the entire album. With a few other guests, most noticeably bassist Chris Morrissey's playing on five of the 12 tracks, Armchair is the first album since the 2001 release of The Swimming Hour that feels like a band playing together rather than songs built in separate layers. The majority of the album feels so much more relaxed than much of Bird's previous works, due much in part to his almost laconic vocal delivery throughout. It's the first album that captures Bird's much lauded live approach, almost as if he had hit some completely transcendental place mentally, forgotten his place in the studio, and instead just sang while in some distant reverie -- the way one sings unencumbered while washing the dishes in an empty house and, unknowingly, hones his artistic blade cleaning dirty knife by dirty knife. The most excellent example of this delivery is on the majestically sprawling "Armchairs," a complex and dynamic number that unfolds cinematically in that it entirely captures attention and does not relent through nearly seven minutes, even without a single repeating melody. It is only fitting, then, that in the first climax of "Armchairs," Bird belts out, "Time, it's a crooked bow!" over a dramatic musical descent. And he's right, the seven minutes in which "Armchairs" unfolds are so captivating, the time feels cut in half. That said, the entirety of Armchair Apocrypha does not completely have that level of looseness and adventure. "Imitosis," a reworked version of "I" from the 2003 release Weather Systems, holds some of the stiffness of Bird's previous recordings which, to be fair, did not seem so stiff before Armchair Apocrypha was released. Still, as likeable a revision as "Imitosis" is, the song feels somewhat out of place alongside the bulk of these tracks and, being the second album in a row where Bird has updated a song from Weather Systems ("Skin Is, My" from The Mysterious Production of Eggs was an update of "Skin" from Weather Systems), it is hard not to begin listening to his back catalog searching for possibly half-baked ideas. This feeling generally dissipates when listening to songs such as "Armchairs," the undeniably catchy "Plasticities" (that Bird's delivery of the chorus' lyric "We'll fight..." sounds like "Whale fight..." only makes the song more endearing), or the drum-loop based "Simple X," co-written by Dosh, but is notable enough to contemplate whether or not Bird was confident in his previous albums or simply felt inspired to remake the past. It would be negligent not to mention the careful engineering and mixing that so clearly went into the making of Armchair Apocrypha, as it is, sonically, the most pleasing work not only that Bird has done, but that has come out in some time. The guitars and electric pianos are decidedly rich in tone and though at any given moment there are endless shifting layers of vocals, violins, guitars and more, Armchair Apocrypha never feels cluttered. Certainly, this is due in part to the exceptional arrangements, but also credit is due to the wonderful placement of the instruments in the mix throughout the recording. This, in part with the further adventurous nature of Bird's developments as a songwriter and performer make Armchair Apocrypha the finest recording he has made to date, an impressive achievement considering his remarkable catalog thus far.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/20/2007
Label:
Fat Possum Records
UPC:
0767981105826
catalogNumber:
1058
Rank:
63124

Tracks

Album Credits

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Armchair Apocrypha 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
osfania More than 1 year ago
This album is one of my favorites. I keep coming back to it. If you don't like sublime songwriting, solid vocals, exquisite instrumentals, catchy tunes or just plain wonderful whistling, this one isn't for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give it 5 stars and will purchase more of his cd's in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago