Andrew Bird
Armchair Apocrypha


4.5
superb

Review

by Eric USER (161 Reviews)
November 5th, 2009 | 29 replies | 4,033 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: How about some credit now, where credit is due?

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

Imagine if you will, the climax of gruesome plane crash. The plane dives lifelessly through the sky back towards the earth as gravity begins to assert its strength. Now, picture this scene a lovely beat to accompany it, complete with a violin, a piano; perhaps, an optimistic tune with whistling, a choir, maybe some horns and lively vocals to compliment. Armchair Apocrypha elicits a powerful feeling of contrast and contradiction as Andrew Bird has a knack for making the terrifying into beautiful, or the mundane into captivating. Take the title, for instance- Armchair: a commonplace piece of furniture that, by every means, is nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand is Apocrypha: a much more serious subject, Scripture that is widely considered as false. On Armchair Apocrypha, Bird seamlessly blends the “apocryphic” with the “armchair,” the unsettling with the oddly familiar. His insightful and witty lyricism is as sharp as ever, and it complements his swooning, murky voice. While Bird has always been an adept musician, his more electric tendencies spring to life on Armchair Apocrypha. While he seemed to rely on his virtuosic violin playing in the past, Apocrypha showcases Bird spreading his wings. Vibrant and sad, lively and precise, Armchair Apocrypha is the pinnacle of Andrew Bird’s illustrious discography.

A melodic masterpiece, Armchair Apocrypha is a testament to well-structured and executed pop music. It would be not just possible, but reasonable, to rave for years about the excellent engineering of not only each song, but the album as a whole. The organ, the quaint finger plucking, the all-out strumming, the whistling: each sounds perfectly conducted and necessary. At first, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact aspect that makes Bird’s tunes so entrancing. Even after listening to Apocrypha time and time again, it’s difficult to pick up on the subtle elements that separate Bird from his peers. His slurred speech becomes another instrument in his already illustrious repertoire. Sure, Sufjan Stevens and Sam Beam have absolutely lovely voices. Though it may sound a bit ridiculous, Bird’s real claim to fame is his ability to go so far beyond the singing and songwriting of the singer-songwriter/folk genre. Armchair Apocrypha is an immense and superb album, the most grand example of Bird’s expansion into more electrical and eclectic music than on the acoustic-oriented The Mysterious Production of Eggs.

Listening to Armchair Apocrypha, many people will notice the lively, beautiful harmonies that inhabit the album like tropical fish inhabit a reef. They’re colorful , they glide smoothly from here to there, and while they all share some common characteristics, each is unique and beautiful on its own. Though, like a dip underwater, it’s a much more impressive experience when taking the swim as a whole, instead of concentrating on each individual pattern or sound. It’s easy to pick out the violins, eerie whistling, and waves of layered overdubs, but they work better as a whole to enhance the symphonic experience created on Andrew Bird’s Apocrypha.

The terrifying and beautiful contradiction and composition of beauty can be readily viewed throughout his songs dark subject matter. The aforementioned “Fiery Crash” may be the most obvious, with the “Thank God it’s fatal /not shy of fatal,” chorus, but the album is full of alike counterparts. “Plasticites,” superfluously overflowing with a catchy harmony and passionate chorus, is a tirade against a society’s culture gone wrong. “We’ll fight, we’ll fight, we’ll fight for your musicals and dying cities,” Bird exclaims as a battle-cry in the fight for culture. Also deserving a significant mention is Bird’s flair his songs’ conception and beginnings. Take a listen to the introductions of precise plucking on “Plasticities,” or the deliberate, plodding guitar on “Heretics,” or the whistling to begin “Darkmatter,” and try NOT to be interested. His talent for introducing songs gives a distinct and individual feel to each one, making it much more of a memorable experience. Once again, it’s difficult to find songwriting that falls below Bird’s incredibly high standards on Apocrypha. His take on the Iraq War in “Scythian Empires” is intriguing, as he references the Middle East’s history to provide a different perspective. Bird refrains from wailing, and tries to maintain a stoic demeanor to his voice. When he loosens up a little, such as on “Spare-Oh’s,” it’s difficult not to feel a wave of emotion pass over through ears along with his soft voice. His juxtaposition of the dark and the fair never quite reach the same heights as on the breathtaking, “Cataracts.” Bird’s outlook on the cruel world and oppression are evident behind his soft, subtle voice and a steady, subdued guitar line as he utters about when, “Our mouths are filled with the uninvited tongues of others.” Instead of clashing and leading to confusion, these two aspects compliment each other and create a listening experience that is reminiscent of the entire album. His sad and harrowing tale is backed by a harmonious tune in an album filled to the brim with equal parts emotion and intellect.

Andrew Bird could have easily coasted along with his virtuosic violin skills, his addition of a more electric sound, and his way with words, and called Armchair Apocrypha a success. Instead, there is much more at work here. The atmosphere, the emotion, the feeling is what leaves that lasting imprint, the crater in the ears of the listener that can’t be filled by any other contemporary singer-songwriters. Bird’s juxtaposition of the dark and the beautiful, the harrowing and harmonious, is the recipe Armchair Apocrypha. The final product has the ability to be breathtaking at some moments and perfectly content and satisfied at others. Armchair Apocrypha doesn’t attempt to do away with the horrifying. Instead, it confronts atrocities head on and makes it possible to see the beauty in the ugly. When the end is near, and your plane is headed down, don’t scream and wail for your life. Instead, hum a pleasant tune and find the beauty that we all overlook in plane crashes.

The fiery crash, it’s just a formality / Or must I explain, just a nod to mortality.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SeaAnemone
November 5th 2009



19721 Comments


This is the first non-'09 review I've done in a while, and it felt pretty good. I absolutely love this album, and it's been making a pretty big dent in my Say Anything-listens lately.

Please tell me what you think on album/review.

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
November 5th 2009



14986 Comments


ugh i really really realllllyyy need to listen to this guy

SeaAnemone
November 5th 2009



19721 Comments


Oh my. you not hearing Andrew Bird = big problem. you may want to get right on that. Start with this or, if you like more acousticy stuff try The Mysterious Production of Eggs.

Waior
November 5th 2009



11425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album rules. I just realized that your name is potentially from an Andrew Bird song, am I crazy? I skimmed the review, looked really great and will read later tonight.

SeaAnemone
November 5th 2009



19721 Comments


Nah sorry waior, you may want to up your dosage of crazy pills haha, it's from a Jets to Brazil song. Thanks though

AtavanHalen
November 5th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pleasant album.

Waior
November 5th 2009



11425 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I see a sea anemone / The enemy, see a sea anemone / And that'll be the end of me


SeaAnemone
November 5th 2009



19721 Comments


Hm. Well I guess you're right. My mistake- it wasn't intentional

AtavanHalen
November 5th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's okay, babe; no-one's judging you.

SeaAnemone
November 5th 2009



19721 Comments


Thanks darlin'

'preciate it.

AtavanHalen
November 5th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

S'all good.

So yeah, the first half of this is nice and then it just gets really boring.

Jips
November 6th 2009



1129 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review... your lyrical analysis is insightful... the songwriting is this albums strongpoint...
i agree the first half of this album is great, but peters out after plasticities...

WatchItExplode
November 6th 2009



3203 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So I hear this dude spouts mad jibberish with tight rhymes and crazy illiteration

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 6th 2009



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

^yeah.

This rules.

PuddlesPuddles
November 6th 2009



4765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah this rules

WatchItExplode
November 6th 2009



3203 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A buddy's gonna hook me up with some Bird...doesn't think I should start with this though

PuddlesPuddles
November 6th 2009



4765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Start with The Mysterious Production of Eggs, then this, then Noble Beast

Then don't listen to Caleb, Weather Systems is good ;)

WatchItExplode
November 6th 2009



3203 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

gratsi

SeaAnemone
November 6th 2009



19721 Comments


I like how there's only been a few reviews today- keep it up please. Maybe this will stay on the front page FOREVER.

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 6th 2009



4459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

: O

but then Sputnik would collapse



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