In recent years there has been an endless stream of male singer/songwriters oozing out gentle melodies plucked from delicate guitars and swirling with rich, textural strings and I'm quite honestly bored of the lot of them. Andrew Bird, however, provides exactly what i've just described but has always stood head and shoulders above the rest. His 2007 album Armchair Apocrypha won him critical acclaim across the board and topped many 'best of' lists that year. It was the album that lifted his sound way above his previous work and uncovered a wealth of ideas that had until then remained relatively unexplored. Noble Beast does however return somewhat to the earlier, less flamboyant sound of albums like Weather Systems. It's much more subdued in both tone and scale compared to Armchair Apocrypha but like all his work it is filled with warmth and a musical texture that surpasses most.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Bird meticulously constructs the densest musical backgrounds and Noble Beast excels in this area. With some of the skyward intentions toned down here compared to 2007 each song is given the time and space to explore this multi-layered and rich texture. This beauty is seen from the very first note. Opener Oh No introduces this record with Birds trademark whistles and assumes a rather jovial, jaunty tempo while dealing with the theme of pure terror. Inspired by a flight he took while sat next to a wailing child Bird says of the experience "I was struck by the mournfulness of this kid's wail. He just kept crying 'Oh no' in a way that only someone who is certain of their own demise could." And here lies the dichotomy in Birds work and one of the many answers to my earlier question of why he stands so proud of his singer/songwriter piers. Musically this album drips with cosy warmth and yet features some of his most deranged lyrical content ever. Stories of kittens with pleurisy and grown men living inside his body Bird creates here a work of infinitely evolving detail.
This record has some of the longest songs he's ever made. At over six and a half minutes Masterswarm frequently changes direction and with the luxury of time manages to drift off into blissful instrumental segments ultimately fading out to the sound of the rhythmic handclap beat as filtered through an effects program that could be from the Thom Yorke portfolio. Many of these songs feature Bird's enthusiasm for subtle experimentation such as this. Not A Robot, But A Ghost has some gloriously intricate and homemade percussion as its rhythm section that morphs with twitchy laptop beats to form a driving swarm of rhythm that propels the song along at a pace that the afore mentioned Thom Yorke would be proud to call his own.
Recorded partly in Nashville and partly at the Wilco Loft in Chicago this record couldn't fail to be a triumph, and a triumph it certainly is. It's slow burning but its depths are unfathomable at this early stage. It's a worthy follow up to 2007's impressive work and features some of this artists finest compositions. Some of them are so perfect they are in danger of being consumed by the advertising monsters but the ones that escape this pitfall will stick with you for a very long time.
4th Feb 2009 - Tumblr4
Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
The Lost Take
Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
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Stiff, poorly paced innovative film that hasn’t aged well.
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Sub LA Confidential gumshoe thriller - with an underplayed USP. Ed Norton misses again.
27th Sep 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
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Intriguing, but generally incomprehensible sci-fi gobbledegook.
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The Next Level
Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
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Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail’… https://t.co/6bZj694rnx.
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8th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
8th Aug 2020Read more 2 star reviews
Incredibly stylish and wannabe cerebral sci-fi, that’s ultimately a little thin.
19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Underwhelming space drama that’s a bit too intimate and not very epic.
5th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
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21st Jun 2020Read more 1 star reviews
Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
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24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Entertaining Brit-com, though it’s a bit on-the-beaten-path for Danny Boyle.
13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
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4th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Kid-friendly(ish), super fun superhero movie.
23rd Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
15th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Standard festival thriller, with some style and decent moments - but it’s all a bit thin.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
7th Mar 2020Read more 1.5 star reviews
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
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Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
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2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish but incoherent Cheney biopic, hampered by another one-note turn from Bale.
5th Oct 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Mind numbingingly basic biopic, saved by the nostalgia for the music and moments.
5th Oct 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Interesting doc following the lives of 3 teens becoming adults, tied together by skateboarding.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Painful, occasionally uplifting viewing with a grief stricken central performance.
28th Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Into the Spider-Verse
Stylish, trippy concept animated superhero flick with some great moments.
21st Sep 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Young adult upgrade, with just enough Conchords humour to keep it enjoyable.
22nd Aug 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing its way a little.
14th Aug 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews