Tag Archive | "Andrew Bird"

Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…

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Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…

Posted on 01 July 2014 by Joe

With 2012’s Hands of Glory Andrew Bird laid the foundations of being a key figure in modern Americana. On his latest release, a collection of covers of songs by cult husband and wife duo Brett and Rennie Sparks, aka The Handsome Family, he is now firmly part of the American roots furniture.


The Handsome Family, which has more than 20 years touring and releasing under their belt, have long been admired by Bird, who has previously covered their track Don’t Be Scared. The duo are also an act that are now getting even wider acclaim after their song Far From Any Road became the title track for the HBO series True Detective.

Bird’s love of their music is clear with his beautiful voice and violin picking adding a sufficiently different quality to Sparks’ tracks. Far From Any Road appears here, as does an updated version of Don’t Be Scare.

Tin Foiled is particularly good, conveying its freight train rhythm perfectly. His version of Giant of Illinois is another stand out and will be a familiar cover to those who own 2009’s excellent compilation Dark Was The Night.

Even though Bird is still a master of almost any genre, from jazz to classical to pop, in recent years it is clear that American roots music is where his greatest achievements may lie.


by Joe Lepper


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Andrew Bird – I Want To See Pulaski At Night


Andrew Bird – I Want To See Pulaski At Night

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Joe

With his marvellous voice, inventive song writing, excellent violin playing and live looping skills Andrew Bird is an exceptional talent.

But just as you think he’s about to hit the big time, after releasing his most accessible work to date with 2012’s Break It Yourself, he then releases just about the most uncommercial concept – a seven track EP with only one song and six violin based classical instrumentals.


The key track that is blanketed in these lush orchestral numbers is Pulaski at Night, arguably one of Bird’s best ever tracks and focused on a friend’s desire to see  Chicago’s Pulaski Road at night (according to some local reports its not the kind of road where visiting at night is advisable unless you want to meet prostitutes or get arrested).

Emotional and  inventively arranged it is everything Bird fans love in his work all wrapped up in a few minutes. And while the instrumentals that surround it are a commercial non-starter they are superb and (to be said in the voice of a teenager from Bristol) “lush, just lush”.

As inaccessible as his latest concept is you have to admire his balls for chucking this out just as he is getting a wider appeal. I like him all the more for it, but at the same time over recent releases I’ve realised that of all his talents it is his voice that is perhaps the best.  I hope for future releases we get to hear more of it.


by Joe Lepper


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Andrew Bird  – Hands of Glory


Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Joe

Underneath the complicated, looping violin arrangements and intricate pop melodies Andrew Bird is at heart a simple musician, with a great voice. Hands of Glory, a short eight track companion album to his most successful album to date, this year’s US Billboard Top Ten release Break It Yourself, sees Bird’s sound stripped back to create one of the alt country releases of the year.

Recorded with his band entirely acoustically and huddled around a single microphone the album mixes covers of some of Bird’s favourite country tunes with a reworking of some of his own tunes, including Break It Yourself’s Orpheo Looks Back.

The impetus for this release was the favourable reception of such country reworkings during his live set and it’s a move Bird clearly relishes. On Handsome Family’s When The Helicopter Comes he revels in the 1950s old time reverb and on the album’s standout track the Townes Van Zandt cover If I Needed You his voice and violin playing is sublime.

Although a world away from the innovation of The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005) and the pop sensibility of Break It Yourself, Hands of Glory successfully transforms Bird into a credible alt country act.  This could so easily have been an oddball extra release for fans only, but has emerged as a fine, traditional American album. I hope to see more leftfield releases like this to come from Bird.


by Joe Lepper


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Top Five Musical Muppet Moments

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Top Five Musical Muppet Moments

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Joe

Flight of the Concords’ Bret McKenzie has teamed up with Joanna Newsom, Andrew Bird and Feist for the soundtrack to the new Muppets film The Muppets.

The soundtrack will be released by Walt Disney Records on November 21, two days before its US release. McKenzie is music supervisor on the project and has penned four songs, including ‘Life’s a Happy Song’ which includes vocals from Newsom and improbably Mickey Rooney.

Newsom also appears on a new version of the classic Muppet Show theme. Paul Simon also features, on the track “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”.

To celebrate the return of the much loved Muppets we’ve decided to give our run down of our top five ever Muppet musical moments.

5. Beaker – Ode to Joy

4. The Muppets – Mahna Mahna

3. Feist and the Sesame Street Muppets  – 1 2 3 4

2. Debbie Harry and Kermit – The Rainbow Connection

1. The Muppets – Bohemian Rhapsody

Compiled by Joe Lepper


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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

‘Not another Top 100 albums list,’ we hear you cry. Well, yes it is. But we hope that this one will be different from the rest. Granted, there are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities as well with the aim of bringing some different music for you to seek out.

First, let us explain our ground rules. We are an indie and alternative music website so while Pet Sounds and Revolver are among our favourites you won’t find them here on this list. We’ve gone for mainly independent label artists but those on the majors with an independent and alternative slant are also included. We’ve gone for one album per artist, which has been tough for us. We have set no timeline as well, which has meant we have been able to plunder our record collections, our Classic Albums section as well as our recent reviews to bring you music from the 60s through to the last few years.

Everyone has their own list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. We will be releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this first instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

100. Half man Half Biscuit – Back in the DHSS

John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit, famously missed a TV recording to go to a Tranmere Rovers game and later in their career took a lengthy break to go back on the dole. This lack of professionalism didn’t stop this, their debut album, from being the best selling independent record of 1986. They are one of the few bands who have managed to do comic songs and make them work. Songs about 1970s TV stars, children’s television and The Velvet Underground make this album a pretty unique experience.

99. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes, who tragically died of cancer in 1997, left behind one of the most diverse legacies in music. He added Burundi drumming to Adam and The Ants, the strings for Sid Vicious’ My Way and some wonderful albums with his experimental-folk-classical  band The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There were five PCO studio albums but Broadcasting From Home from 1984 is the pick of the bunch, especially as it features the, often used by movie producers and advertisers, track Music For a Found Harmonium. Simon’s son Arthur has since revived the PCO, which continues to tour. More details here.

98. Neko Case – Blacklisted

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Part-time New Pornographer Neko Case has been producing great music on her own terms for several years, and Blacklisted is a high water mark. Backed by members of Calexico, The Sadies and Giant Sand she combines the smokey allure of a bar room singer with the old-time country vibe of Patsy Cline. The songs are dark and beautiful and Case sings them with power and style.

97. The Monks – Black Monk Time

Formed in the mid 1960s in Germany by a group of former American GIs The Monks were punks before their time, experimented in feedback and even  had haircuts of actual monks.  Recorded in 1966 in the early hours of the morning during a hectic performing schedule Black Monk Time was their only album and offers a mid 60s slice of one of the greatest punk pioneer acts. For a full review of the 2009 re-release of Black Monk Time click here.

96. The dB’s – Repercussion

The dB’s are the forgotten men of the 1980s jangle pop scene, their albums received a lot of attention from the critics, but little interest from the buying public. Lead by songwriters Peter Holsapple (who would later work with REM) and Chris Stamey (who would leave the band after this release) The dB’s understood how to write quirky melodic songs as well as any of their contemporaries.  The songs are just as catchy as their debut album, but the production is better and the instrumentation more interesting. Put simply, this is a great pop album and it deserved a much bigger audience.

95. Tar Babies – No Contest

This 1980s act from Wisconson started life as a hardcore punk outfit before drifting more into funk. Here on this little known 1988 album No Contest, released on the legendary SST label,  they blend the two perfectly. Quite simply its a great punk album and an even better funk album.

94. Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird started out playing a twisted variant on swing jazz with his band Bowl of Fire. By 2005, when this album was released, most of the jazz stylings had been dropped in place of a left-field take on folk, pop and alternative rock & roll. Live Bird plays several instruments at once and his musical virtuosity and deadpan vocals are a delight on this album.  His lyrics are oblique and the song structures are as impressive as anything you’ll hear. Few artists have managed to pull off an album this ambitious, and Bird does it with ease.

93. The Walkmen – You & Me

This 2008 album from Brooklyn band The Walkmen  is among our most recent entries and topped our Albums of 2008 list.  ‘In the New Year’ is a highlight, but the album’s true quality is its consistency throughout. Almost mariachi in places, punk in others, Velvet Underground at times all held together with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s fierce vocals. Last year’s excellent album Lisbon took the style and mood of You & Me further, but for us You & Me is the better of the two. It’s a tough choice though. Our tip, buy both.

92. No Means No – Wrong

No Means No - Wrong

No Means No’s brand of jazz-hardcore is like nothing else on the varied Alternative Tentacles label. The Wright brothers, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, are more skillful players than your average hardcore punks. Opener ‘It’s Catching Up’ sets the scene, charging in at 100 miles an hour of raucous abuse, and the pace deviates and varies dizzily from there on in. The bass and drums are heavy and the guitars loud throughout, it is intelligent music but never stops being a lot of fun.

91. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

This is the second album by XTC’s mid 1980s pyschedelic alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear. It coincided with XTC stopping touring and shows a band throwing themselves into studio work. With producer John Leckie on board each track is a loving, beautiful recreation of the 1960s music they love. Small Faces, Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys are just some of the influences on this remarkable album. The Stone Roses were reportedly so impressed with it they hired Leckie to produce their self titled debut. Read our full Classic Albums review of Psonic Psunspot here.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.


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Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Posted on 17 September 2010 by Joe

With his last two albums, The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird left behind the jazz sound that had been marked his earlier albums.

Noble Beast moves even further away from that and embraces a lush pastoral sound. The music is breathtaking from the opening song ‘Oh No’ (featuring Bird’s trademark whistling) to the album closer ‘On Ho’. Bird adds violin, guitar and vocals and is joined by a host of musicians including members of Lambchop. Bird’s lyrics have been criticised because he is arch and impersonal, never showing his true feelings. There is some truth to this, but his wordplay is evocative and poetic and fits perfectly with the mood of his music.

It is an impressive album, but there is something missing. The aforementioned ‘Oh No’, ‘Not a Robot, But a Ghost’ and ‘Fitz and the Dizzyspells’ are all great songs, but there is no ‘Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left’ or ‘Fiery Crash’ (from his previous albums) to really grab hold of you. Some of the songs are over long and the whole seems a little unsatisfying. However, it is the kind of album you need to live with and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was in my albums of the year list by the end of 2009.

Limited edition versions of the album come with a 2nd disc of instrumentals featuring percussion from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche.


by Dorian Rogers, Jan 2009


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