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Old 02-09-2009, 03:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Andrew Bird Discography Reviewed



I absolutely adore this man. I think he is unbelievably talented and he's one of my favorite current artists, so I've decided to review his discography. He is a classically trained violinist, which is the center instrument for most of his music, but he is also proficient on the guitar, glockenspiel and whistling. He started out playing less contemporary folk and jazz music and has progressed to alternative/indie and experimental music.

His discography consists of:

Self-released:
Music of Hair (1996)

with "Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire"
Thrills (1998)
Oh! The Graneur (1999)
The Swimming Hour (2001)

Solo Career:
Weather Systems (2003)
The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Noble Beast (2009)

Three Live Albums:
Fingerlings (2002)
Fingerlings 2 (2004)
Fingerlings 3 (2006)
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Old 02-09-2009, 07:00 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Andrew Bird - Music of Hair (1996)



1. Nuthinduan Waltz
2. Ambivalence Waltz
3. Oh So Insistent
4. Rhoddh
5. Two Sisters
6. St. Francis Reel
7. Ratitat/Peter's Wolf/Oblivious Reel
8. The Greenhorn/Exile of Erin/Glasgow Reel
9. Pathetique
10. Song of Foot
11. Minor Beatrice
12. Oh So Sad


Fresh out of college, (Northwestern University) Andrew Bird was playing music around Chicago in clubs and fairs and such. He played with the band Charlie Nobody for a brief period of time. He was also featured on several albums from swing-jazz band, Squirrel Nut Zippers, which was a period of musical growth for Bird and introduced him to some new music. In 1996 he self-produced and released his first album, Music of Hair when he was only 23.

This album is very different from Bird’s later career. This music is not very contemporary. It includes several folk songs that are borderline bluegrass as well as many tracks that showcase Bird’s virtuosity on the violin. Nuthinduan Waltz and Ambivalence Waltz are folk tunes that have some twangy violin and Bird crooning the solemn lyrics. Oh So Insistent is a song played on solo violin with some guitar backing, which sounds like it belongs in a Renaissance fair. St. Francis Reel is an old Irish tune played wonderfully on violin. The two tracks that follow are also Bird on solo violin. Minor Beatrice is a highlight of the album. At roughly ten minutes long, it is a jazz-swing jam session featuring some nice guitar work and bowing as well as pizzicato on the violin. The album closes with a somber jazz song with Bird on the violin soloing over bass and drums.

This album is not a representation at all of what is to come from Andrew Bird. It probably won’t appeal to everyone as it is not the most contemporary music but I still think it is an interesting album with some great violin work. This is where Bird showcased everything he’s learned from his long classical training on the violin. If you are looking to get into him, this is probably the last thing you should listen as his most recent release sounds nothing at all like this. But still, a solid album.



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Old 02-10-2009, 06:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Nice review

I think I've got just about his whole discography, but I've yet to get familiar with most of his albums. I discovered Andrew Bird because of my interest in Squirrel Nut Zippers and my entry point was "Thrills" (which also features members of SNZ) which has quite a few songs I like.

Looking forward to the rest!
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:15 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Andrew Bird is a genius and a virtuoso on violin. J loren of HURT ( who was a classically trained violin player ) once described Bird as one of his influences. Not too many people are familiar with him and his music is not really 'mainstream' that is why I was thrilled to see this review here! Kudos to you for writing this for us! Who here remembers the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

I appreciate your passion for ecentric artists and for the courage to expose listeners here to music that may be out of their "comfort zone." Well written review. Thank you. :-)
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Old 02-10-2009, 08:24 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ninaNirvana View Post
Who here remembers the Squirrel Nut Zippers?
I'm pretty sure that so far, I'm the only one who has reviewed a SNZ album (on my journal) .. Other than that, I think there's just the rare occasional mention here on MB. More people should check them out!
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toretorden View Post
I'm pretty sure that so far, I'm the only one who has reviewed a SNZ album (on my journal) .. Other than that, I think there's just the rare occasional mention here on MB. More people should check them out!
I really like your tastes in music. That is refreshing to see! So many of the people that I know are trapped inside a genre or band for life...acceptable if that band is Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd but completely unacceptable to me if it's Fall Out Boy or Nickelback.
:-)
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Old 02-10-2009, 09:20 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Nice work manny : )
Unfortunately I don't very much enjoy mr. bird but after you're a few albums in, I'll check back and read a few of those reviews. Maybe ill find something interesting.
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Old 02-10-2009, 01:33 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks for the input! You can expect the coming to reviews to be a little more in depth as there is not much to be said about Music for Hair.

I have two Squirrel Nut Zippers albums and they're such fun albums. I love the "swing revival" thing they have going on, it makes you want to get up and dance.
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Old 02-11-2009, 06:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire - Thrills (1998)



1. Minor Stab
2. Ides of Swing
3. Glass Figurine
4. Pathetique
5. Depression-Pasillo
6. 50 Pieces
7. A Woman's Life and Love
8. Swedish Wedding March
9. Eugene
10. Gris-Gris
11. Cock o' the Walk
12. Nuthinduan Waltz
13. Some of These Days / Chinatown My Chinatown

Andrew Bird started his band Bowl of Fire by teaming up with drummer Kevin O’Donnell and bassist Josh Hirsch of Charlie Nobody. Katharine Walen (singer) and guitarist James Mathus of Squirrel Nut Zippers also appear on this album. Bird’s new band signed with the Rykodisc record label to release their first album Thrills in 1998.

Thrills takes us back to pre-war jazz and swing. There is some gypsy-jazz and Django Reinhardt influence on several tracks with Stephane Grappelli–esque violin work by Bird. The album consists of all original songs composed by Andrew Bird save for the fifth and last track. The album opens with a melancholic jazz song that sounds like it would suit the streets of New Orleans. Jack Fine’s wailing trumpet and Bird’s somewhat angry vocals make Minor Stab one of the best tracks on the album. Idles of Swing is a laid back swing-jazz song that could fit right in with Django’s work. The next track is another swing song that is one of the more upbeat tracks of the album. Glass Figurine is a fun song with some excellent harmonies between the guitar and violin. Bird revisits a song from Music of Hair with Pathetique but it does not add much to the album. Depression-Pasillo is another high point of the album. It is an up-tempo track lead by a wonderful violin solo. Bird takes control of this track and completely leads the band with his violin solo. The next two tracks, 50 Pieces and A Woman’s Life and Love are again swing songs with gypsy jazz elements. Katharine Walen delivers some smooth jazzy vocals on the latter.

The second half of the album is not as strong as the first. So far the album has been an interesting and entertaining mix of laid back and upbeat swing songs with some gypsy jazz influence but the music eventually becomes a bit repetitive. Swedish Wedding March is a medieval sounding melody played by the solo violin. The next three tracks are some more upbeat swing songs. Bird again revisits a song from Music of Hair, Nuthinduan Waltz but this folk song sounds somewhat out of place. The last track is a well known bluegrass song on the guitar and violin pleasantly sung by Bird. There is a hidden track that is a long swing jam session to finish off the album.

This album is definitely not contemporary music but it is still an enjoyable and fun album. It is apparent that Bowl of Fire is a talented band and they are more versatile than their counterpart, Squirrel Nut Zippers. Bird demonstrates more of his violin virtuosity in this area of swing and jazz music. Bird’s vocals are not nearly as brilliant as his violin but that is soon to change. Thrills is a solid, fun album and somewhat of a warm up album for the masterpiece, in my opinion, that is Bowl of Fire’s next and final album, Oh! The Grandeur.


(poor quality, only video I could find of a Thrills song)

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Old 02-14-2009, 01:13 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - Oh! The Grandeur (1999)



1. Candy Shop
2. Tea & Thorazine
3. Wishing for Contentment
4. Wait
5. The Idiot's Genius
6. Vidalia
7. Beware
8. Dora Goes to Town
9. Feetlips
10. And So...
11. Coney Island Shuffle
12. Respiration
13. (What's Your) Angle?
14. The Confession
15. Beware (Reprise)

Oh! The Grandeur consists of similar music to Thrills, but this time the band has perfected their sound. With their base still being in swing and jazz there is also a sense of some alternative rock in several tracks on the album that give this a more contemporary feel. One thing that makes this album far superior to Thrills is that it never becomes repetitive. By not relying on the upbeat swing songs Oh! The Grandeur is an interesting listen from beginning to end. In my opinion this album is a masterpiece by Andrew Bird. The band line up is the same as the previous album: Andrew Bird – vocals, violin. James Mathus – guitar. Josh Hirsch – bass. Kevin O’Donnell – percussion. It was released in 1999 by Rykodisc record label.

The Bowl of Fire perfect what they attempted on Thrills with this album. The album is based in the similar swing and jazz of Thrills but there are no tracks that are lacking in anyway. The entire band delivers on swing tracks like Candy Shop and Coney Island Shuffle. There is some excellent drumming from O’Donnell on these songs. They are not contemporary but if this album came out when swing music was at its height I am sure Candy Shop would be a big hit.

The highlights from the album are three ballads. Beware has one of the most beautiful violin melodies Andrew Bird has composed. This track also features some unconventional sections that show some rock influence into this jazz song. The Confession, similarly to Beware, has another beautiful melody. What make this track stand out are Bird’s flawless vocals harmonized over the violin’s melody. Wait is my favorite song off the album. It is a magnificent jazz ballad with some of Bird’s best vocal work. The distant sounding violin and trumpet solos give the song an extremely melancholic atmosphere.

Tea & Thorazine and Idiot’s Genius are the closest this album comes to alternative rock. They demonstrate the new direction that Andrew Bird is taking in his music and he expands on this in his next album. Tea & Thorazine is still based in jazz but has unconventional electric violin that gives it a much more contemporary feel. Bird also demonstrates his unique lyrics that develop throughout his career. This song is inspired by his autistic brother’s experience with mental institutions: “you laugh like a banshee / gesticulate your delirium / they treat you like a corpse keep you full of candy lithium / what a dream life would seem if you could see / the world from inside an etch-a-sketch”

Oh! The Grandeur is the last album Andrew Bird will release that is only jazz and swing music. His next album will be a departure from this genre and launch his career in alternative/indie rock. Bird ended his period of jazz with an exceptional album on all levels.

(It's incredibly hard to find videos from Andrew Bird's early career)

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