Armchair Apocrypha

15 Apr

I’d never heard of Andrew Bird until I started reading news of the Armchair leak back at the beginning of the year and now it’s definitely a strong contender for my album of the year. Having sat with it for a good few months now it seems even more detailed, complex and structured. It opens with the brilliantly layered Fiery Crash – a warm swooping cello dives in and out of the rolling, cyclical carousel of whistles, guitar, maracas and electric organ. There’s the distant reverb of the drums which rolls into Imitosis’ bizarre latin mood, Bird is, afterall, a Texan. At times his lyrics are scientifica, but never overly so or tiresome, instead spilled out through his wholesome, if not slightly undistinguishable, voice.

What follows is a stunning opening to the next track. Heretics will have you struggling to accept this is only the third track, and it’s temporary sinister phrases hold their place beautifully in the wider summery feel created by the vocal performance and the strings, which duet with one another wonderfully.

Other highlights include the rough edged, rocking platform which forms the basis of Plasticities, and the 70s tv soundtrack background of Simple X is a blur of digital symphony – theremin, sampling and synth. Interlude The Supine is a M.H.Raman-esque string piece, with burgeoning and the collapsing strings, which spill over, sombre and sobering, into Cataracts, a heartfelt departure to a much more restrained and introspective ballad.

Scythian Empire is a crazy, otherworldly narrative beginning with a depressing weather forecast and building into a something both confusing and exciting. Spare-Ohs is more of the same, and equally engaging, eventually succeeded by sublime instrumental closer Yawny At The Apocalypse.

However, there is one true stand-out track on this album. Nesteled in the middle is the majestic, slow building, Armchairs. Totally breathtaking, beautiful and inspired. It shivers as it progresses, fragile at first, then transforming into a powerful oscillating piano driven plea. It’s from the heart of a truly brilliant songwriter. Personal, painful and heartbreaking.

“You didn’t write you didn’t call
It didn’t cross your mind at all.
And through the waves
The waves of a.m. squall,
You couldn’t feel a thing at all.”

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