Bird on a Wire

IM'ing—the new criticism

In preparation for indie songster/professional whistler Andrew Bird's upcoming show at the Gypsy Tea Room, we sat down for a listen through Bird's new album, Armchair Apocrypha. What follows are excerpts of the accompanying selected song-by-song Instant Messenger conversation—a lively discussion of Bird's clever wordplay, instrumental prowess (Bird is a classically trained violinist) and apparent animal magnetism.

"Fiery Crash"

Merritt: Not sure I would've opened with this.

Andrew Bird ain't just whistling Dixie.
Andrew Bird ain't just whistling Dixie.

Noah: I was really disappointed with the production on this at first. But it's growing on me. It makes sense to open an Andrew Bird album with some whistling and a shout-out to Lou Dobbs, though.

"Imitosis"

Merritt: Now is that said "eye-my-toe-sis" or "imi-toe-sis"?

Noah: I have no idea. Where's my dictionary?

Merritt: Nice Pynchon reference in the lyrics.

Noah: He's well-read it seems. A bookish fellow.

Merritt: I'd like him to read to me...but that's neither here nor there.

Noah: It takes talent to fit "Bunsen burners" into a lyric and not sound like They Might Be Giants.

"Darkmatter"

Noah:Man, this guy can whistle.

Merritt: He whistles like a 19th-century wheat farmer. True skill. This is the one where he sings about playing Operation.

Noah: This is maybe the only song on this album that jumps out of the speakers the way "Fake Palindromes" did.

Merritt: This is one I'll repeat a few times for sure.

Noah: Wait. Did he just sing "nausy-nausy-nausea"?

Merritt: Yeah. He sure did.

"Armchairs"

Noah: I guess he's tuning here?

Merritt: I think this is the super-long song.

Noah: Seven minutes.

Merritt: Not necessarily in heaven, either. But we'll see. Very Jeff Buckley here in the beginning.

Noah: Oh jeez, every time a dude sings a little girly, people go comparing him to Jeff Buckley.

Merritt: That's not true. I hear very specific similarities [elements of both "Jewel Box" and "Morning Theft"]. It's not an insult. They're both gifted tenors.

Noah: The build-up in this song is nice. He has a knack for dynamics.

Merritt: Yeah, and he's about to go real Buckley on your ass in the last 1:30.

"Simple X"

Noah:Cue the adult contemporary drum machine beat.

Merritt:Yeah, OK. That's totally Sting'd out.

Noah:This song reminds me of that song about the phone booth from the mid-'90s.

Merritt: "Standing outside a phone booth with money and a one-hit wonder in my pocket"...or something like that ["Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand" by the Primitive Radio Gods].

Noah: Exactly. Says here in the press materials this is actually a Martin Dosh [a well-known electronic artist and favored Bird collaborator] instrumental with new lyrics by Bird. So it's not all his fault.

Merritt: Can we skip it?

"Scythian Empire"

Merritt: The Wes Anderson soundtrack starts here. Enter Bill Murray and Noah Taylor.

Noah: This has a bit of a Sufjan Stevens feel, as well.

Merritt: Yeah, definitely.

Noah:This is definitely my favorite song on the album, though.

Merritt: It's a bit buried on the album, but he does that. I like being rewarded for sticking around.

 
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