Quirky, virtuosic songwriter strikes musical gold on brand-new label
Andrew Bird's track listings typically read like high-school textbooks. Armchair Apocrypha, his third full-length—and first for
Mississippi-based blues-cum-indie-rock label Fat Possum—is no different. Dark matter, palindromes and Scythian Empires inform the song titles, but Bird aims to do more than merely rehash his 11th-grade curriculum. His understated vocals and coy phrasing belie a thematic depth where physical machinations give way to metaphysical apostasies, leaving us "basically alone," as Bird says. On Apocrypha, with his familiar penchant for turning scientific minutiae into major songcraft, Bird may be simultaneously at his most clever and most luminous. "When I was just a little boy / I threw away all my action toys / While I became obsessed with Operation," he begins on "Dark Matter" before swirls of shimmering guitars, nuanced whistles, short violin plucks and ripe drum fills take the song—along with several others like "Plasticities" and "Heretics"—to places this imaginative auteur of atmospherics hasn't yet gone, a feat that's all the more impressive when you realize Bird does it "basically alone."