Andrew Bird (photo by Amanda Demme, PR)
My Finest Work Yet
Andrew Bird makes a bold declaration with the title of his new album, but it might be accurate. Bringing together facets of his past releases with this new album's well-defined musicality and a pointed topical approach, My Finest Work Yet might be Bird’s finest … well, you get the idea.
My Finest Work Yet is the follow up to 2017's Echolocations: River and it is the second album in Bird’s Echolocations series, and his first pop album since 2016's Are You Serious (2016). Looking to capture a unique warmth in the music, a recording technique was employed during the sessions where Bird and other musicians, who were not wearing headphones, recorded live to tape without separation, allowing the sound of each instrument to bleed into the other open microphones in the room. The result is an ambience that enriches the instrumentation and melodies.
My Finest Work Yet is filled with typical Bird characteristics like plucked violins and his trademark whistling. Conversely, the lyrics to the new songs are perhaps the most direct that he has ever written. They incorporate elements of dark humor and history, while integrating political overtones inspired by today’s social climate.
“Bloodless” is one of those politically-minded songs, with attention-grabbing lines like, “They are profiting from your worry" and “They’re banking on the sound and fury.” The single “Sisyphus” is upbeat with Bird making reference to Sisyphus, a king in Greek mythology. Sisyphus is faced with the punishment of having to push a large boulder up a hill, but before he can reach the top, the boulder breaks free and rolls back down to the bottom. Sisyphus is then forced to repeat the task every day for eternity. It’s symbolic of life’s struggles, a theme througough My Finest Work Yet.
On “Archipelago,” Bird addresses the role enemies play in our lives: “We’re locked in a death grip and it’s taking its toll/When our enemies are what make us whole.” The song ultimately surmises that our enemies, and our struggles with them, are what make us whole.
Melodically, the songs on My Finest Work Yet range from pop (“Manifest”), jazz (“Bloodless”), and soul (“Proxy War”). The pace quickens on songs like “Olympians” and “Fallorun.” The striking, humorous album cover gracing My Finest Work Yet is a parody of “The Death Of Marat," the 1793 painting by French artist Jacques-Louis David. In the artwork, Bird can be seen in place of the murdered Jean-Paul Marat, a French revolutionary leader.
My Finest Work Yet was recorded in Los Angeles with Bird and Paul Butler producing. Bird played guitar and violin, Butler contributed vocals, Tyler Chester played keyboards, Madison Cunningham added vocals, Alan Hampton played bass and sang, Blake Mills was on guitar and Ted Poor played drums. Also present were Abraham Rounds, on drums and vocals, and Mike Viola, on guitar.
My Finest Work Yet is an invitingly rich album that enhances Bird's smart brand of chamber pop.
A new FUV Live concert with Andrew Bird, recorded at The Loft at City Winery, airs on Monday night, April 29, at 8 p.m. on 90.7FM, also streaming and available on demand.