Andrew Bird, “Eyeoneye” (2012): One Track Mind

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With “Eyeoneye,” Andrew Bird finds a great middle ground between the rather over-earnest sound of his early solo records and the broader ambitions of his old band Bowl of Fire. At the same time, “Eyeoneye” — the lead single from the forthcoming album Break It Yourself — continues to burnish Bird’s reputation as the most talented whistling bookworm string-a-ding singer-songwriter out there.

That starts with constructing something that bursts out of the speakers, announcing itself as anything other than the well-groomed, even placid melodies that marked earlier solo efforts like Armchair Apocrypha and Noble Beast. After years of dabbling in everything from smartly swinging post-jazz, to eclectic indie–folk, to broader Kurt Weill-ish musings, “Eyeoneye” finds Bird completely inhabiting a comfortable amalgam of jangly, yet modern sounds that is probably best described as offbeat alterno-pop.

Of course, underneath the seemingly bucolic surface of Bird’s music, there’s always been a lot – maybe too much – going on lyrically. Here, he drops some of the (admirable, but still) more writerly pretensions so often found in his writing – this is the guy, after all, who once deliciously rhymed “proto-Sanskrit Minoans” and, ahem, “porto-centric Lisboans” – for a set of ideas that’s far more emotionally direct. From “Eyeoneye,” for instance, we also get the album’s title – as Bird, descending into something that approximates Morrissey’s trembling melancholy, sings: “No one can break your heart … so you break it yourself.”

It’s been fascinating to hear Bird slowly shed so much of the over-thunk trickery that went with his initial recordings, from the fussy song structures to the graduate-workshop turns of phrase. The results, slowly but surely, have revealed a maturing artist ready to speak to his audience in an honest way. “Eyeoneye” points to what could be a breakthrough album from Bird.

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Andrew Bird’s ‘Break It Yourself’ is due on March 6 from Mom + Pop.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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