Andrew Bird | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Andrew Bird 

When violinist Andrew Bird emerged in the late 90s with his first band, the Bowl of Fire, it was clear that he was a talented musician. Too often, though, his songs sounded like student exercises--he'd tackle one style after another from song to song, as if laboring to impress a professor. By the time he released his 2001 album The Swimming Hour, he was much less self-conscious as both a performer and a songwriter, but it wasn't until Weather Systems (2003) that everything fell into place: his immaculately crafted pop songs no longer flaunted their idiosyncrasies. He's at his best on his new The Mysterious Production of Eggs (Righteous Babe), a project he scrapped three times and recorded in six different studios; although his longtime collaborator Kevin O'Donnell plays drums on some of the songs, Bird plays everything on most. He foregrounds his hooky, elegant melodies--which, a la Rufus Wainwright, have a certain Tin Pan Alley sophistication--but his arrangements are ingenious, framing his delicate vocals with jewel-like movements and changing up the accents as each piece progresses. His musical obsessions are still evident on a few tunes: "Banking on a Myth" cleverly mimics the stuttering pentatonic funk of classic Ethiopian pop, using five-note violin pizz plucks and a glissando-laden solo that sounds like the moan of Mahmoud Ahmed, and on the coda of "Opposite Day" he slips into his prewar songster mode. But by and large it's the most timeless-sounding record he's made. Archer Prewitt and Clyde Federal open. Sat 4/16, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $15, 18+.

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