Andrew Bird
Armchair Apocrypha


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
March 16th, 2007 | 59 replies | 13,445 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Intricately laced dream pop with sensible melodies but even better subtle countermelodies and inflections.

Being subtle is one of the most difficult things to do in music. It takes great production skills, compositional skills, and the mind to know when to use it. Subtlety gives a whole new dimension to music; it gives something to find in the music on the listener’s 10th or 11th time through the album. Generally, there are two sides to the use of subtlety. There are those who use it slightly and even when they do, it isn’t hidden enough to reach its full effect. Most artists fall under this category. Andrew Bird is one of the first to fall under the opposite category. His music on Armchair Apocrypha is almost too subtle. There is so much hidden underneath the main voices, but it is too hidden, too hard to find.
For that reason, on my first few listens of Armchair Apocrypha, I was very disappointed. If it wasn’t an album I really wanted to enjoy, I might have gone and wrote a negative review for the album right there. I gave it one more chance and I really paid attention. At that point, the subtleties came out and realized what an intricate, beautiful album Armchair Apocrypha is. It is a prime example of a grower.

Andrew Bird rode a bit of a hype machine with his last album, The Mysterious Production of Eggs. If there were any time for him to grasp onto some indie fame, now would be the time. Armchair Apocrypha does not expand upon the sound of Eggs. Instead, he goes for a poppier, more electric sound not too far from the land of a cheerier Interpol and Pete Yorn’s latest. Bird’s voice resembles other indie pop swooners like Sondre Lerche and Sufjan Stevens. The slurred style of his vocals might pass the listener by without any recollection, as his voice blends right into the music perfectly. It would be a great travesty to miss his wit and brilliant lyricism. With almost child-like lyrics, Bird gets across messages that some of the greatest lyricists of our time would have trouble conjuring metaphors for. He opens one of the best tracks on the album, Dark Matter, with this stanza. “When I was just a little boy/I threw away all of my action toys/I became obsessed with Operation.” After something so simple, he spirals out into topics much more philosophical, conveying multiple messages at one time. Musically, the song layers multiple guitars, vocal harmonies, and a simple driving drum beat into one huge sound, like a much more controlled U2. However, instead of staying at this big sound, he brings it down to simple instrumentation and back up again masterfully. Dark Matter showcases Bird’s new sound perfectly.

Although it is hard to hear on the first few listens, the album does have some variety. Simple X is an electronica-based song, full with an electronic beat and warm synthesizer melodies. Despite the active drum beat, Simple X is beautifully tranquil. Still, the most tranquil and beautiful on the album is easily Cataracts. Cataracts also gives variety to the album, with much more sparse arrangement than the rest of the album. It makes brilliant use of Bird’s oft used whistling. It plays a huge part in this album, finding its way into many songs. The whistling resembles Disney’s version of a songbird, some of the most soulful whistling since Snow White and her songbirds. Aside from Bird’s vocals, the string arrangements take many of the melodies, not just on Cataracts, but the entire album. Bird uses all the voices that a string ensemble can conjure, from the legato, luscious chords to the pizzicato plucks that give a whole different feel. Still, the instrumentation is not limited to strings and guitars. Piano, banjo, and anything else Bird feels appropriate finds its way onto the album.

Bird’s subtlety is a double-edged sword. It will take some will power to fight through the first few listens to get to where this album is at its best, familiarity. The album gets better and better with each listen. It is nowhere near perfect, though. A full listen through the album, no matter how familiar, is very difficult because one must really pay attention to grasp the greatness of each song. Armchair Apocrypha is better understood through short listens than full listens, although there are no real bad songs on the album. It is not music meant to be played in the background, it is meant to grab your attention and never let go through hook after hook.

Recommended Tracks:
Imitosis
Dark Matter
Simple X
Cataracts



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Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
March 16th 2007



4827 Comments


Yeah, this does sound interesting. I have Eggs and, even though I love many of the songs, I haven't listened to it in full yet. I probably will something today.
Good job on the review.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 16th 2007



4925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm jealous that I don't have it yet.

Zebra
Moderator
March 17th 2007



2647 Comments


I've heard this in full twice and I'm very disappointed.
There are some solid tracks like "Dark Matter" and "Simple X" but there are just too many dull moments. I'll give this a few more listens but I'm not to optimistic.


Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2007



16072 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"...Eggs" was much better than this, but this is still a pretty good album.
Nice review etc.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
March 23rd 2007



4925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Unlike the Mars Volta, this album effectively uses birds chirping. I think this album will grow better and better after each listen.

I completely agree with the fact of Bird's subtlety

La Revolucion
March 24th 2007



1060 Comments


I didn't like this the first time I listened to it, but now that I'm listening again it's starting to sound better. Good review.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2007



2596 Comments


Great review - I have a couple friends who really love this guy but I haven't listened to him save for a couple tracks that they introduced me to. I like the album art, too :budgie:

trustxdialect
March 29th 2007



1502 Comments


It might be because I haven't heard his earlier stuff, but I loved this album from the beginning. It's really good.

FA
March 30th 2007



127 Comments


I really hope to see A. Bird in Omaha comin up .... I'll be disappointed in myself if I miss his show, cuz I already missed EitS

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
September 9th 2007



4925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not enough people have this/care about this album.

Doppelganger
September 14th 2007



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wait a minute... Listen to Fiery Crash and then War On War by Wilco...

Anyway, great album.

ohpm500
January 28th 2008



12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

armchairs is by far the standout track on this album, I love how the whole song sweeps you up into the final epic 2 minutes. It makes a seven minute song feel like a breeze.


the other's i'm fairly sure i havn't taken the time out to listen to.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

so good

AtavanHalen
August 10th 2008



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The album loses steam after awhile, but the first few songs are fantastic.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I HATE YOU

taylormemer
August 10th 2008



4887 Comments


Stop being a sook chanmadan.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

excuse me faggot

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
August 10th 2008



4925 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol chan missed the boat like 1 year ago

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 10th 2008



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

excuse me just heard of harvye milk

taylormemer
August 10th 2008



4887 Comments


You're excused.



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