Forget the violin. Forget the classical background. As troubadour Andrew Bird puts it, "At this point the violin just happens to be the instrument I have on hand to make the sounds that I hear. I like to abuse it and pull as many sounds out of it as I can." Bird is a masterful and intuitive singer / songwriter, and what he does while performing — alternately plucking and bowing his violin, then immediately sampling the results, layering the sounds with guitar, whistling, glockenspiel and vocals— bears little resemblance to what most people might expect. It's only one of several devices in his arsenal of instruments, melodies, and imaginative wordplay.
Andrew was born in Chicago. His first band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, recorded three albums for Rykodisc from 1997 to 2001: Thrills revisits early 20th century jazz and folk forms and makes them fierce again; Oh! The Grandeur pulses with dark undertones and gypsy balladry; and The Swimming Hour pools rock and soul predilections into a mixture that drew comparisons to such diverse predecessors as the Beatles, Talking Heads, obscure European folk, and country blues (The Onion).
2003 was the year the critics stopped groping for labels and returned to good old-fashioned listening, in this case to Weather Systems, released first on Grimsey Records, then picked up by Righteous Babe in the U.S. and Fargo in Europe. What reviewers — and an ever-growing number of hard-core fans — heard was "haunting... pastoral... magical" (Magnet) — thanks to the album's sonic depth, nuanced layers of texture, and the existential themes its lyrics explore. As bookends to Weather Systems, Bird has also recently released two limited-edition live records, Fingerlings and Fingerlings 2, documenting his last 7 years on the road through various renditions of works in progress, unreleased covers, collaborations, and concert versions of songs from his studio albums. Proof of his originality has further spread through appearances on Radio France, the BBC, KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic," and NPR's "World Café."
Naming Fingerlings 2 their December 2004 Album of the Month, Mojo's raved that "Bird is simply incredible live." Armed with a violin, an electric guitar, a glockenspiel, and a sampler, Bird's shows achieve a rare mixture of both spontaneity and precision, "Every night," he notes, "I am rewriting all my songs for the audience." He has been busy touring both on his own and at the invitation of such admirers as My Morning Jacket, Magnetic Fields, Lambchop, and Ani DiFranco.
On to 2005 and The Mysterious Production of Eggs, an album title as intriguing as the music inside. Parts of the disc, like Weather Systems before it, were recorded in Bird's barn-turned-home-studio a few hours outside Chicago, while the rest came together in studios in L.A. and Chicago. Bird plays almost everything you hear on the record. Contributions come from longtime collaborators Kevin O'Donnell on drums and beats and Nora O'Connor singing harmonies here and there. More punch than the punch-drunk past and reminiscent of nothing else, really, The Mysterious Production of Eggs distills Bird's estimable repertoire into songs that aspire to rhyme "formaldehyde" six different ways. And that, folks, is energy.
"Folky, Beatles-tinged melodies meet wild ideas . . . making music as surreal as his words."
- New York Times
"Versed in a wealth of forms and instruments, Bird offers a shapely, mesmerizing CD as inventive as it is rooted in musical lore. Eggs peaks again and again, each time divulging something distinctly astounding or just plain beautiful."
- Entertainment Weekly
"Taking all the best parts of Jeff Buckley, Devandra Barnhart and Rufus Wainwright, Bird can be noisy, charming, frivolous, haunting and playful all at once, with each song an adventure and, as the title implies, a mystery. As compulsive as he is obsessive . . . Bird assembles all his finest gifts into one breathtaking basket."
- Billboard Magazine
"Surely one of the albums of the year. An ace lyricist . . . like the soft magic of snowfall."
- Time Out London
"Beck meets Itzhak Perlman."
- USA Today