Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird is a singer-songwriter and violinist-for-hire who spent some time in the late '90s with quirky swing-band revivalists the Squirrel Nut Zippers. A few years ago, he moved from Chicago to a northwestern Illinois farming community where his family owned a barn, which he fancied turning into a recording studio and living space removed from the bustle of the big city.

"I thought I was gonna come and bring my band out here and make a record," he says on the phone, "but it became much more of a place to get into a vacuum with my own ideas and just completely control everything." Weather Systems, the first record he made at the barn, sounds like that vacuum--it's full of quiet art-folk tunes that are about stillness even when they're not. Bird's new album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, is another work of concentrated oddity: Bird whistles a lot and sings in a deadpan tenor (often in eerie harmony with his pal Nora O'Connor) about what a guy who lives "in a barn in the middle of nowhere" thinks of popular culture. He did venture to studios in Chicago, Nashville and L.A. to record bits of the album, but he played most of the instruments himself and applies an exacting attention to detail throughout. "I learned a lot making Weather Systems," he says, "and I still had some ways to go." Andrew Bird opens for Ani DiFranco.

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Mikael Wood