The replacement of Marat with Andrew Bird in the famous depiction of death on the cover of his latest album hints at a revolution in the artist’s songwriting career. My Finest Work Yet is a calming indie rock album which skillfully balances Bird’s well-established folk whimsy with newfound ambition. More vocally present than ever, the artist’s ambling and witty lyrics bring a humour and intelligence to these ten new tracks. There are noticeable echoes of Father John Misty in some songs, yet the egotism of Mr. Tillman is thankfully absent from My Finest Work Yet, despite its modest title.
Bird comes closest to the mainstream indie-pop with tracks ‘Olympians’and ‘Sisyphus’, both of which feature triumphant, accessible choruses. The latter grapples with the moral consequences that ensue if you “let the rock roll.” Throughout the track, the Greek mythology figure Sisyphus is used as a metaphor for man’s, and possibly Andrew Bird’s, search for meaning in life. The lyric, “at the precipice pause” references a Camus essay discussing when Sisyphus is at the top of the mountain, hesitating and becoming conscious of the futility of his rock-rolling routine. The bleak subject matter is countered by Bird’s ‘Life of Brian’-esque whistling solo and buoyant piano line.
The enthralling range of instrumentals used in the album are evidence that Bird has not sold out, with careful craftsmanship distinct of his style. No headphones or speakers were used in the production of the music, nor any separation between the performers, allowing the instruments to beautifully and deliberately bleed into the different microphones, especially in ‘Archipelago’ and ‘Proxy War.’ The way the sounds blend together is a sonic expression of the erudite themes Bird explores in the lyrics, as he tackles “current day dichotomies and how to identify a moral compass amidst such divisive times.”
Bird deals with dark political issues in a subtly irreverent manner on this record and it is full of beautifully balanced melodies which exude confidence. Bird has taken on film scores in the past but has now settled into his own special brand of philosophical chamber pop and sounds rather assured in it.
Image: Anders Jensen-Urstad via Wikimedia Commons