First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5
Written by T.J. Simon
Lately, Chicago pop violinist Andrew Bird has been going through a transitional period. He parted ways with his record label (Rykodisc) and his back-up band (Bowl of Fire) to craft a solo album of classically-influenced chamber-pop. Weather Systems, the resulting CD, has a distinctly different feel from the Tin Pan Alley sound of his 1999 outing Oh! The Grandeur as well as the rollicking pop of his 2001 masterpiece The Swimming Hour. Birdís recording without his Bowl of Fire is a mellow and melancholy affair that ultimately fails to be interesting enough to merit much praise.
On this first solo album, Bird sings quite a bit about loneliness and solitude as heard on the avant-garde I and the shuffling Lull. The latter is one of a handful of songs featuring cameos from Bowl of Fire alumni Nora OíConnor (vocals and guitar) and Kevin OíDonnell (drums), and it also constitutes one of the discís finest moments. Throughout Weather Systems, Bird provides much of his own musical accompaniment by plucking his fiddle like a guitar and creating a not-unpleasant sound somewhere between a mandolin and a ukulele. This forms a sharp contrast to the orchestral feel of the layered violin tracks on the albumís title cut. He also spends a great deal of time whistling over his songs to generally agreeable results as on the sedate First Song and the top-notch jazzy instrumental Skin.
Three of the discís nine songs are instrumentals, and the tracks with vocals find Bird with little to say. These lightweight lyrics go hand in hand with the lighter-than-air songs on Weather Systems. The music washes over the listener without leaving a mark, and staying focused is a constant challenge. The songs invite the mind to wander to more interesting places, and, while there are some perfectly pleasant moments, thereís really nothing here that will stick to your ribs. The CD also comes with an eight-minute QuickTime video excerpt from a forthcoming documentary about Andrew Bird that stretches the plausibility of what can be considered "bonus" material on an otherwise forgettable music disc. Ĺ
Weather Systems is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box