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.
Merritt: Not sure I would've opened with this.
Andrew Bird performs Wednesday, March 14, at the Gypsy Tea Room.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Merritt: The Wes Anderson soundtrack starts here. Enter Bill Murray and Noah Taylor.
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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.