Andrew Bird – Noble Beast/ Useless Creatures (2009)

I hear a good melody and I am hooked — the kind of thing that sounds like it is crawling over and through the nooks and crannies of the music as if a centipede is making its way through the busy forest undergrowth. And that’s what Bird’s music is: Busy forest undergrowth, with a beautiful melody weaving its way through it, across it, and sometimes opposed to it.

The lush background is entrancing, often based much on hymn. Bird plays violin, guitar, mandolin, and glockenspiel, (not to mention whistling), sometimes looping it all. But the listener may just be most drawn to his vocal melody, which is that centipede I mention above, tasked not only with flexing and bending over a complex terrain, but also with the intricately verbose, multi-syllabic lyrics Bird can’t help but explore in every song.

It seems like odd, demanding music when described, but the results are serene and beautiful, the kind of thing that, for the right listeners, quickly becomes a favorite — and Bird seems to be finding a growing fanbase with each release.

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Note: Skip the one-disc release and head straight for the deluxe, two-disc release, which features a second album of instrumental music. You won’t be sorry.

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.