Andrew Bird has had quite the 20+ year run so far. Starting out in the hot jazz/old time-y retro scene with Squirrel Nut Zippers and working his way thru a few albums on his own as Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire. He ended that phase of his career on the excellent The Swimming Hour. From there on Bird went into more of a chamber pop direction, releasing conceptual albums like Weather Systems and Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs before moving to Fat Possum Records in 2007 where he began the next phase of his career. With Armchair Apocrypha Bird broke into the indie music scene that he swore off in his early 20s. From there on he experimented in pop music, classical, Americana, rockabilly and pretty much whatever scratched his creative itch.
After a few folks-y and classical music forks in the road, Andrew Bird has returned with My Finest Work Yet. Maybe a tongue-in-cheek title, but it’s not a far off statement. My Finest Work Yet has Andrew Bird writing the most concise, catchy, and engaging music he’s written in over ten years, recording live to tape at Barefoot Studios, going for the Rudy Van Gelder vibe. His encyclopedic, tongue-twisting lyrics of the past have loosened up to breathy narratives with biting social commentary, and his music combines all of his strengths into, well, his finest work yet.
We’re greeted at the door with the beautiful and breezy “Sisyphus”. an acoustic strummer and Bird’s famous pitch perfect whistling. It’s the loosest Bird has sounded in years, or ever. “Bloodless” is dreamy, like some late night take on southern soul. Bird’s virtuosic violin playing peppers the track. “Olympians” is a buzzing guitar-led track that absolutely soars in the chorus with a lovely descending melody towards the end.
Elsewhere “Fallorun” gets experimental with electronic noise and a minor key break that brings chills. “Manifest” is a wonderfully lilting acoustic track that is classic singer/songwriter fare. “Bellevue Bridge Club” ends the album on a bluesy and dark note. Bird’s words ring on long after the song ends.
My Finest Work Yet sees one of my favorite songwriters of the last 20 years making one of his most engaging records in a very long time. Maybe ever. Andrew Bird has indeed made his finest work ever.
8.6 out of 10