Today marks the release of Andrew Bird's new LP Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of.... The 40-year-old musician takes on a tranquil state of mind in the mellow follow up to the 2012 album, Break It Yourself.
Bird uses this new album as a platform to cover ten tracks of The Handsome Family material. While the baroque pop artist first began recording the Albuquerque-based husband / wife duo's music on his 2003 LP, Weather Systems, this year marks the 15th since he first performed violin on their 2000 record, In The Air.
The LP opens with Bird's familiar blend of crooning and singing, as he belts out the opening line, "The cathedral in Cologne looks like a spaceship." This LP, like so many of his previous, features Bird's traditional employment of various stringed instruments. While many tracks, including opener "Cathedral In The Dell," predominantly focus on Bird's skilled, yet melancholy guitar playing, his trademark violin appears in many places of the album as well. The virtuosic fluidity of his violin playing has taken on a grounded sense of restraint in many tracks, illuminating a more mature Bird then we might've come to know from his early works. There are still numerous violin melodies scattered throughout the album. "Tin Foiled," for example, features a melodic line played pizzicato in the intro that evolves into a full rhythmic swing.
"Frogs Singing" begins with a Celtic-sounding melody that invokes vivid portraits of a pastoral landscape. The end result doesn't sound like music made by musicians in a studio, but rather a bandwagon of fatigued farmhands taking a break from the land. The album as a whole serves the listener a serene experience placing the mind into a passive state, quite similar to Beethoven's 6th symphony, who Bird might very well have acquainted himself with and been inspired by while studying violin performance at Northwestern University.
"Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of..." has the instrumentation of a contemporary folk rock album, and its 35-minute-long duration is spliced into ten separate tracks, but it feels in many ways like a singular work of art utilizing classical form, yet doing so with a modern voice. Bird closes the album with a rendition of The Handsome Family's "Far From Any Road," a track that has been elevating the popularity of the lesser known indie folk duo since T Bone Burnett set it as the title track of the HBO's crime drama True Detective. Overall, the album is a uniquely Andrew Bird experience that pays homage to a duo of some of his favorite songwriters.