http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/93f456c118a58745c8a7bad002d5fde938c36557.jpg Break It Yourself

Andrew Bird

Break It Yourself

Mom + Pop
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
March 6, 2012

Over a nearly 20-year career, Chicago singer, songwriter and violinist Andrew Bird has built a rep as one of indie rock's most beguiling light touches – a dude who makes Jeff Tweedy look like a Nordic death-metal pyro. Fusing elements of jazz, Celtic folk and chamber pop while softly talk-singing – or whistling – tunes with titles like "Scythian Empires," he might be gratingly pretentious, if he wasn't so unobtrusively amiable. But on his ninth album, Bird gets direct, even confrontational. "Desperation Breeds..." sets the tone, opening the record with a dark blast of piano-guitar discord. Soon we get a sense of what's under his skin: "Go ahead and congratulate yourself," he sings on "Eyeoneye," a conservatory-Neil Young breakup seether. Andy's pissed, albeit in an I-know-she's-intentionally-forgetting-to-DVR-Downton Abbey-just-to-spite-me kind of way.

The emotional urgency energizes his fluid multi-instrumental elocution and learned metaphors; sometimes it sounds like he's burning an effigy of his ex in the quad at iTunes U: On "Give It Away," he evokes "worthless currency" over a gently plucked violin, analogizing inflation and failure like the Ron Paul of love. Whether contemplatively highbrow (the symphonic meditation "Hole in the Ocean Floor") or forlornly down-to-earth (the alt-country of "Fatal Shore"), his angst studies feel cathartic without seeming mean-spirited; when healing marimbas and crickets materialize for the album-ending instrumental lullaby, "Belles," it's a welcome exhaling moment. He's earned his rest.

Listen to "Eyeoneye":

Photos: Random Notes

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Santa Monica”

    Everclear | 1996

    After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

    More Song Stories entries »