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Monday, March 5, 2012

Andrew Bird: Break it Yourself (Release Date: 3-6-2012)

        Andrew Bird has been around longer than you might think. One of Indie music's patron saints of Orchestral Pop, Bird's been on the scene since the fresh young age of 24, and has remained there through today. In his 38 years of life (and 14 as a recording artist), Bird has released a whopping 10 albums, 7 under his solo name, 3 under the Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire moniker. The extended time in the spotlight has allowed the man to really develop as an artist, but it has also served to strip him of just about any sense of mystery. After all of these years, we as an audience have a very, very specific understanding of what a, 'New Andrew Bird,' disc will sound like, and this sense of confinement finds Break it Yourself tripping over its own feet more often than not.

        Above all else, Break it Yourself feels painfully low on urgency. The LP spans a sizable 14 tracks, collectively occupying an hour's time, and only early single Eyeoneye possesses any real sense of get-up. The song is an easy highlight, Bird strumming some hearty riffs that lead in to a surprisingly break-neck conclusion. It's the only entry on the album that has the nerve to use some gas, the others all restricting themselves to driving in residential areas, and parking lots. To describe it as relaxed would be the ultimate understatement: This is a collection of tunes with the power to slowly close eyelids, and while this soothing sensation is certainly admirable in some respects, listening to Break it Yourself in the middle of the afternoon might prompt you to take a nap.

        Listen: Andrew Bird will never release a, 'bad,' album. He's too musically savvy, his voice is too golden, and he has an unteachable understanding of what sounds pleasant going into ear drums. But pleasant is the opportune word here, as song after song pass without ever even attempting to validate their own, individual existence. If you can tell me the difference between the simple shuffles of Lazy Projector and Fatal Shore, I'll give you a cookie. Bird's way with off-kilter lyrics is also starting to fade, trading in goofy, non-literal chants of the past like, 'There will be snacks/There will,' for repeated, exacting stances like, "Oh, I can't see the sense in us breaking up at all." Even when BIY clears out space for a eight-minute epic like Hole in the Ocean Floor, the entire thing just sort of lofts around in the air, lacking senses of direction or purpose found on previous long-form Bird wonders like Armchairs. Break it Yourself is the disheartening sound of an artist running out of tricks, and even if his old stand-bys remain lovely and warm, there's no mistaking this with the guy's best work.

Grade: C

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