Break It Yourself
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52 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2012
My friends had been telling me for a while that I needed to get into Andrew Bird--and I'm glad I made the plunge with this album. To be honest, I was expecting something more along the lines of Bon Iver or like Mumford & Sons but this album was a pleasant surprise. It's much more varied and nuanced than a lot of popular bands in the folk/indie/pop category---no doubt thanks in large part to how talented Bird is and how long he's been doing this.

Bird doesn't make the mistake of having a pretty but one note album. "Eyeoneye" could have been a lost R.E.M. track while "Hole In the Ocean Floor" would fit beautifully as a movie score. Overall though, whether he's focusing more on the instrumentals or singing--there's still a general vibe of relaxed calmness. The music simply makes me chill and happy.

What I really appreciate about the music is how organic it feels--it doesn't sound as much as musicians playing from sheet music as a bunch of wildly talented musicians having a jam session which gives it a unique sound.

Obviously as this is my first foray into Bird's music, I can't tell how this compares to his past work--but I know that for me, this album definitely works and I would be very surprised if long time Bird fans were disappointed.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2012
Andrew Bird is a fussy one. He makes music that sounds like it was painstakingly composed, recorded and mixed. Notes are meticulously plucked upon his violin. Every whistle is precisely blown through perfectly puckered lips. Every beat, nuance and mood has it's place. Every song is fussed over till it's just right. This has been Andrew Bird's modus operandi ever since the first Bowl of Fire release Thrills, in 1998. With his newest effort, the breezy and beautiful Break It Yourself, Mr. Bird has left fussy outside the barn door and let the songs take us where they may.

`Desperation Breeds' starts the album off with reverbed harmonies, as if ghosts from the past are beckoning us to enter. Then plucked acoustics and Bird's nuanced croon takes us by the hand and into this new world he's created. After the short but sweet instrumental `Polynation', Andrew Bird takes us into the beautiful world of `Danse Caribe'. Easily one of Andrew Bird's best tracks to date. The loose, free and collaborative vibe Bird was going for on this new album does this track justice. `Danse Caribe' floats in our ear and takes us to a sandy, warm place. With it's caribbean vibe and floating rhythm, "You go mistaking clouds for mountains", says the whistling man with the violin. Indeed. 'Give It Away' is reminiscent of something off of his 2001 effort Swimming Hour. A mid song rhythm shift gives this track a nice change of scenery. `Eyeoneye' is like The Walkman's `The Rat' recorded by the Punch Brothers, at first. With heavily-reverbed electric guitar and an almost angsty tone to Bird's voice(well, as angsty as Andrew Bird can get), this is the most straightforward rock song on the album, possibly of his career to date. A great slab of indie rock goodness. Fear not, halfway through we get some patented Andrew Bird whistling and glockenspiel. "Lazy Projector" sounds like the Cowboy Junkies covering the Pixies. Great song with beautiful backing vocals by the always lovely Nora O'Connor. `Lusitania' is a dusty little number with big drums, strummed acoustics and guest vocals by St. Vincent. A truly beautiful track and reason enough for a St. Vincent/Andrew Bird collaborative record. Buried towards the end of this album is an 8 minute beauty called `Hole In The Ocean'. This song combines all of the elements that make Andrew Bird's music so special: songwriting prowess, compositional muscle and cinematic storytelling through sound and fury. Musically, it's very reminiscent of Noble Beast's instrumental companion album Useless Creatures. Andrew Bird recently wrote and performed the soundtrack to the film Norman. This song is the perfect example of why he's made for scoring film.

At times, I find myself pining for that fussy songsmith that gave us such gems as `Plasticities', `Heretics' and `Fitz and Dizzyspells'. Hugely ornamented, overly anxious and catchy songs that fill every nook and cranny in your cranium. But I'm starting to like this new, laid back Andrew Bird. Break It Yourself is a folksy, breezy and loose collection of songs. Not overly done. Not too sparse. This time around Mr. Bird lets the songs go in what direction they may. And we're all the better for it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Bird constantly impresses with his genius imagination, his incorporation of his influences into a synthesis that is something new. Jangly guitars, Brian Wilson like choral touches, that wonderful whistling, and his heart on his sleeve lyrics are all here, and it feels a little more personal this time. Not so much like he is confessing to you, but it feels very intimate, like he is playing for a few friends. For me, there are not any weak tracks on this album, which is a hard feat to pull off; standouts include "Eyeoneye", which sounds like an REM and Roy Orbison collaboration, in a really good way; also "Danse Caribe" and "Belles", but frankly, the entire affair is exactly what I had hoped from Bird. His creative genius, set down for us on record, tuneful and intelligent, well played, friendly, a little sad at times, and balanced with more than a little cheer. Great job and a great record.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Lovely. Both musically and lyrically lovely. At times heart-achingly so. I've been wanting some less thinly veiled love songs from AB for some time and Break It Yourself delivers them, requited, unrequited and lost. And they are all beautiful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2012
I discovered Andrew Bird a few years ago after seeing a stream of a live performance. I was kind of hooked, and ever since then, I've gotten my hands on almost anything that I can find.

Of course, when I heard he had a new album, I ordered it. I was a little bit concerned before I got it, because a few critics had warned that it took a few listens to really start to enjoy it. However, the first time that I listened to it, I loved it.

Favorites:
Lazy Projector
Near Death Experience Experience
Sifters
Hole in the Ocean Floor

...And of course, the short interludes that have made their appearance between songs are simply beautiful. My boyfriend and I also saw Mr. Bird and his band perform some of these songs live, and I promise that they're even more powerful in person.

I am madly in love with this album.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2012
If you are a fan of AB, but was a bit let down by his last effort, rejoice, for you now have the divine chance to once again bask in true AB glory. At first listen I wasn't completely sold, but a few tracks (mostly "give it away) kept bringing me back. And slowly, like a flower blossoming the entire album draws you in, and before you know it you have listened to it front to back 10 times over. Buy the album, support good music.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I'm a little surprised at the reception this album has gotten. I read the 5-star reviews, the 90%+ reviews, and I just can't understand how people are getting that much enjoyment, or emotional resonance, or what have you out of this album.

I admit, I was late to Andrew Bird. Noble Beast/Useless Creatures was my first album of his (though I'd had Heretics and The Water Jet Cilice in my library for ages from compilations). I was so blown away by the literate, complex, interesting, and emotionally gripping songs on that album that I began delving back through his solo and Bowl of Fire catalog and found a very respectable corpus that, while imperfect and tending towards the precious, mostly really worked for me.

My initial reactions to the Break It Yourself material were negative. Eyeoneye seemed not to go anywhere, and outtake The Crown Salesman didn't work for me at all. But I suspected that the songs weren't representative of the album, so I dutifully trudged down to the record store after work on release day to pick it up. "Near Death Experience Experience" sounded like dodgy non-wordplay, but I didn't prejudge.

At first listen, I was relieved. It was recognizably Andrew Bird, and the songs seemed to have some depth to them. But the more I listened to the album - and I've listened at least a dozen times now - the less happy with it I was. The pacing seemed off, several songs just seemed bad, and even the better tracks were lacking the complexity and depth that I had loved.

Again, some of the songs just aren't very good. After a great plucking intro, "Give It Away" devolved into a leaden lump dragging down the first side, with an uninteresting melody and "clever" financial metaphors that compare poorly to Banking on a Myth. It's just boring. "Near Death Experience Experience" squanders a decent track with some great lyrics and ideas (like ripping off 90s one-hit wonders Fastball's "The Way") with the singularly mawkish and chain-jerking chorus "We'll dance like cancer survivors when the prognosis was that you should have died." While it's not as offensive as the previous two, "Fatal Shore" drags on and on without any real development or interest. (If you're going to revisit a great lyric from a previous album, there should be more inspiration involved.)

Thankfully, there are some great songs on offer: Danse Caribe, with its amazing intercontinental development; Sifters, with its resonant astronomical and personal imagery; Hole in the Ocean Floor, with its fractured tides. Eyeoneye works better for me in the context of the album than it did as a single. The rest aren't bad, but not outstanding - though an Annie Clark duet deserves stronger material than "Lusitania."

But I believe in albums, and even the better songs here do not make a really solid album. Break It Yourself is amorphous as a whole, without a clear theme or any particular unifying feeling. Bird's last two solo albums were remarkably well-sequenced, and I'm sorry that didn't carry forward; but then, I couldn't figure out a compelling sequence for these songs. Dropping the three dud tracks produced a much lighter and easier-to-manage 11 track, 46 minute album - give it a try even if you liked the album.

Nobody is perfect all the time, and I will certainly keep paying attention to Mr. Bird. Serious fans should buy this album and give it a real chance or three. But I would not recommend this album to new listeners or to casual fans. The previous three albums offer much more treasure for your time and money.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2012
This is the first album of Mr. Bird's I've bought. I heard his music on npr and kcrw and I was definitely intrigued. I bought the album and listened to it for the first time with my husband (a musician) on a 6 hour road trip. The music is great -very interesting, multi-layered, different and creative in a way that works. I look forward to many listens and purchasing more of his music.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Obviously I am a big fan of Andrew Bird. I pre-ordered the album, and have listened to it twice so far.

That being said, it is a great album. Where Noble Beast seemed a little muted and orchestral (sometimes even sounding akin to Beck), this album seems more along the lines of Armchair Apocrypha. I found my toe tapping numerous times.

It is not as sing-able as Mysterious Production of Eggs, but this is a different animal in many ways.

Break it Yourself is more mature, each element of the song seems to fit better, from a strong beat, to the violin, he even seems more confident in his vocals here than he has ever been before.

This album definitely seems to be a culmination of all of his previous work. As always, Andrew Bird makes music unlike anything I have heard before, and this new album is truly a masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2012
No one writes songs like Andrew Bird. Nobdy. I'm excited about hearing this guy produce, hopefully, a long lifetime of music. I Want You to Be My Second
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