This latest album from Chicago singer-songwriter and violinist sees the guitar take more of a center position than previous works and the result is a multi-layered piece of dazzlingly original music that is a delight to listen to from start to finish. I must take this moment to warn any readers who are sensitive to over-praise but I will be saying nothing negative about this record in this review as there is nothing negative to say.
Whether he is accompanied by former band Bowl Of Fire or trading under his own name, Andrew Bird has consistently delivered music of effortless grace and though Armchair Apocrypha sees an evolution or resolution of sounds discovered in previous albums Weather Systems and 2005's enchanting The Mysterious Production Of Eggs the core beauty to this mans music remains the same.
The source of this beauty is not too easy to pin down. Musically, Bird weaves a very rich tapestry indeed. Swathes of layered and looped violin usher in jangling guitars, glockenspiel and delicate brushed drums. Thematically it's a similar story with everything from spirituality (Darkmatter) to mortality to the current political climate (Scythian Empires) being addressed but it's all cleverly disguised in a unique poetic ambiguity. But all this wouldn't be half as beguiling if it weren't for Birds voice. This is the key to this and every album previous. Bird has much to say but he's in no hurry to say it. His effortless style can shuffle along in almost spoken word (Cataracts) then can lift to soaring falsetto like a leaf in the summer breeze (Armchairs). Pretty soon you start trusting this voice and give yourself up to its warmth and when you do your heart delights in the knowledge that it could be taken anywhere at a moments notice.
One of the most beautiful songs comes in the form of a 58 second interlude called The Supine. It's deep classical symphonies with dancing finger picking delicacies are simply divine and echo the closing track Yawny At The Apocalypse, who's purely instrumental cello and violin washes ease you out of this sublime dream world. This is truly heartfelt music from an artist devoted to his art and his world and will leave you in quiet awe of just how many strings there are to this man's bow.