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Music / Andrew Bird

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Andrew Wegman Bird (born July 11, 1973) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and whistler originally from Chicago. Bird's career started off when he joined swing revival band the Squirrel Nut Zippers, then later led his own jazz/folk band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, before becoming a solo artist. His 2005 release The Mysterious Production of Eggs firmly entrenched him in the indie-sphere.

Nowadays, Bird is mostly known for his violin, his cryptic and witty lyrics filled with scientific references and wordplay, and his whistling. He's very prolific, having released 13 studio albums as well as plenty more EPs, instrumental projects, and live albums. He has collaborated with Fiona Apple, Matt Berninger, and St. Vincent, among many others.



  • Music of Hair (1996, self-released)
  • Thrills (1998, with Bowl of Fire)
  • Oh! The Grandeur (1999, with Bowl of Fire)
  • The Swimming Hour (2001, with Bowl of Fire)
  • Weather Systems (2003)
  • Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
  • Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
  • Noble Beast (2009)
  • Break It Yourself (2012)
  • Hands of Glory (2012)
  • I Want to See Pulaski at Night (2013, EP)
  • Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... (2014)
  • Echolocations: Canyon (2015, instrumental EP)
  • Are You Serious (2016)
  • Echolocations: River (2017, instrumental EP)
  • My Finest Work Yet (2019)


Tropes associated with Andrew Bird and his music include:

  • After the End: “Tables and Chairs” is set here. Bird promises there will be tables, chairs, pony rides, dancing bears, a band, and best of all, snacks.
  • Album Title Drop: Although they're often the titles of completely different albums. For instance, Eggs has "Banking on a Myth" which name-drops 2003's Weather Systems and "Measuring Cups" which mentions 2012's Hands of Glory.
    • Occasionally played straight, however, such as "Eyeoneye" from Break It Yourself which contains exactly those words.
  • Animal Motifs: Birds, naturally - both in song titles ("Spare-Ohs," "Lazuli Bunting") and album artwork (Armchair Apocrypha).
  • Art Imitates Art: My Finest Work Yet's album cover is a recreation of Jacques-Louis David's The Death of Marat, with Bird himself as Marat.
  • Author Appeal: Wordplay, scientific terms used casually, references to nature, history, and mythology, and lots of whistling.
  • Baroque Pop: Somewhere between here and Indie Folk.
  • Break Up Song: Many of his songs could be viewed through this lens, though most of them (i.e. "Armchairs” and "Masterfade”) are shrouded in metaphors. "Lazy Projector" plays it straight with the lyric "I can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all."
  • Call-Back: He loves to reference past songs of his. In "Lazy Projector," he sings, "Though history repeats itself, and time’s a crooked bow" — the phrase "time’s a crooked bow" appeared in his song "Armchairs," five years earlier, so with this lyric, history really is repeating itself.
  • Cartoon Creature: Whatever that thing on Eggs's cover (referred to as "Beastie") is.
  • Concept Album: More of a Concept EP - 2013's I Want to See Pulaski at Night contains six ambient instrumental tracks written to accompany the album's centerpiece and the only song with vocals, "Pulaski at Night." Bird compared the album to the soundtrack of a film.
  • Cover Album: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... is a collection of covers of The Handsome Family, a Chicago-based Americana duo whom Bird seems to have a close relationship with.
  • Cover Version: He's covered "Distant Stations" by the Mountain Goats and "The Fake Headlines" by The New Pornographers, as well as numerous folk songs and jazz standards.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: Many Bowl of Fire tracks fall under here; the arrangements are sometimes uncharacteristically creepy by his standards. For instance, "Minor Stab" is essentially a homage to "Minnie the Moocher."
  • Darker and Edgier: His first three solo albums are not only darker than his entire Bowl of Fire output, but ramp up in darkness from one to the next (mostly lyrically).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Shines through in his lyrics, album titles, and interviews. A promo for his newest album My Finest Work Yet includes him quoting himself saying "My Finest Work Yet is my finest work yet."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: His Retraux Bowl of Fire albums are slightly jarring compared to his more folky, baroque works starting with Weather Systems.
  • Epic Rocking: He tends to have one extremely long song per album, often as the closer. Special mention goes to "Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses" for being nearly ten minutes.
  • Fun with Palindromes: Sort of. "Fake Palindromes" features quite a few phrases that may seem like palindromes at first but aren't, such as "dewy-eyed."
  • Genre Roulette: The Swimming Hour is all over the place. In just 13 tracks, it cycles through radio-friendly alt-rock ("Two Way Action"), torch-song cabaret ("Why?"), chamber-pop a la his current style ("11:11"), Caribbean folk ("Case in Point"), ragtime ("Too Long"), Ennio Morricone-esque Spaghetti Western ("Way Out West"), Bing Crosby-esque traditional pop ("Waiting to Talk"), Motown blues-rock ("Satisfied"), and doo-wop ("Dear Old Greenland").
  • Gratuitous French: A couple times. "Danse Caribe" translates to "Caribbean dance," while "Masterfade" includes the word "papillon" (butterfly) in an otherwise entirely English verse and “Souverian” stems from the French word “souverain.”
  • Gratuitous German: Used in a few of his early swing-inspired Bowl of Fire tracks, such as "Ides of Swing" and "50 Pieces."
  • Incredibly Long Note: Some of his faster songs end with one of these, such as the "I'm gonna take a little STROOOOOOOOOOLL" in "Way Out West."
  • Let's Duet: With Fiona Apple on "Left Handed Kisses" and St. Vincent on "Lusitania." He and St. Vincent have performed multiple concerts together as well.
  • List Song: "Dora Goes to Town," written about Bird's childhood babysitter, is a rather nonsensical list of things (mostly food-related) that Dora has or does.
    She puts eggs in her orange juice, coffee in her tea
    Puts olives in her jelly, says that's the way it's gonna be
    Ashes and mashes and dust and mustard
    Creamed spinach sandwich and she cuts the crusts off
    Don't let it show that you wanted some
    Dora Munch is coming to town
  • Location Song: "Pulaski at Night."
  • Long Title: Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs, as well as its third track "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left."
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Tables and Chairs" starts with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Many, if not most, of Bird's songs are rather gentle-sounding folk tunes that nonetheless contain disturbing or depressing lyrics.
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Unlike his generally peaceful melodies, his lyrics can be very dark. He's usually found between 5-7 (mixing idealism with angst/loneliness), but can drop to a 0 (instrumentals) or 1 ("Danse Caribe," "Don't Be Scared," anything that mainly focuses on nature) or climb to an 8 (his recent politically-minded tracks such as “Capital Crimes” and “Bloodless,” as well as darker tales like "11:11" and "Fake Palindromes"). “MX Missiles,” which concerns suicide, is a 9.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Usually operates at a 1 or 2. A light 4 is the highest he’s gone, reserved for his rowdier arrangements and brief sections where instruments explode (such as the end of "Armchairs").
  • Mood Whiplash: The last verse of "Fake Palindromes":
    And she says, "I like long walks and sci-fi movies
    You're six foot tall and east coast bred
    Some lonely night we can get together
    And I'm gonna tie your wrists with leather
    And drill a tiny hole into your head"
  • New Sound Album:
    • The Swimming Hour, a particularly experimental album with a Genre Roulette, followed the more straightforward swing-revival albums Thrills and Oh! The Grandeur.
    • Weather Systems, which came directly after, was the first album to establish his now-usual style of songwriting, with copious whistling and violin-heavy chamber-folk-pop arrangements.
    • 2016's Are You Serious is the poppiest and most concise album he's released thus far, with guitar just as common as violin and far more straightforward, sincerely autobiographical lyrics focusing on marriage and becoming a father.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Fake Palindromes," with a healthy dose of trepanation.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: "Feetlips" concerns this type of character.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: They're all over the place in his works, usually puns of some sort. Some examples in song titles are "Nuthinduan Waltz," "Fallorun," "Anonanimal," and "Souverian," and there's plenty more in his lyrics.
  • Protest Song: While Bird's lyrics are usually oblique, he has described My Finest Work Yet as his first overtly political album. Topics discussed include apathy, morality ("Sisyphus"), war ("Bloodless"), climate change ("Manifest"), and the 2016 presidential election ("Fallorun").
  • Questioning Title?: "Why?"
  • Raised Catholic: Religious themes recur in his music (such as "Saints Preservus" and "The New Saint Jude," back-to-back tracks on Are You Serious) even if he seems to have stepped away from Catholicism as of late.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Imitosis" is a faster version of "I" from two albums before, "Orpheo" is a slower version of "Orpheo Looks Back" from the album directly before, “Don’t Be Scared” appears as two different arrangements on two different albums. "Danse Caribe," "Skin Is, My," and "Archipelago," among others, first showed up as instrumentals before being reworked and given lyrics. "The Privateers" is a reimagined version of "The Confession" from Oh! The Grandeur. So on and so forth...
  • Recycled Lyrics: All the time, considering his love of callbacks. For instance, the lyric "sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis" first showed up in "Eugene" before reappearing in "Imitosis" a decade later.
  • Retraux: His work in the Bowl of Fire days is jazz/swing-based, in the vein of Squirrel Nut Zippers.
  • Scatting: Shows up toward the end of "Dora Goes to Town," right before the lyric "Don't let it show that you wanted some."
  • Sequel Song: His most explicit case of this is the instrumental "The Return of Yawny" from Echolocations: Canyon, serving as a sequel to "Yawny at the Apocalypse" from Armchair Apocrypha. He's also written spiritual sequels, in a sense, such as "Lazy Projector" to "Armchairs" (see Call-Back above).
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of Bird's trademarks. From "Imitosis":
    What was mistaken for closeness was just a case of mitosis
    Sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
  • Silly Love Songs: Often subverted, as many of his songs that seem to concern romance have different, sometimes darker meanings - for instance, "Masterfade" appears to be one with its parade of Kewpie dolls and kittens and papillons, but it's closer to a Break Up Song.
    • "Left Handed Kisses" with Fiona Apple is an interesting take on one of these:
    “My inclination was to write a song about why I can’t write a simple love song. The song began as an internal dialogue. At first it was just my voice. Then another voice came creeping in and I thought ‘this should be a duet if I can find the right person.’ I needed to find someone really indicting. She was totally committed. The session was a long whiskey-fueled night – unhinged, for sure. All worth it, of course. I can’t write simple love songs. People are complex.”
  • Singer Namedrop: Played with toward the end of "Spare-Ohs":
    When you told me I was too abstruse
    I just thought it was a kind of bird
  • The Something Song: "The Happy Birthday Song."
  • Song of Song Titles: "Sovay" is named after a traditional English folk song and quotes it in the chorus, then later references Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
  • Song Style Shift: "Armchairs" twists and turns in quite a few ways throughout its 7-minute run time, while "Anonanimal" and "Don the Struggle" become way faster midway through.
  • Soprano and Gravel: "Left Handed Kisses," his duet with Fiona Apple, plays with this dynamic by swapping the usual roles.
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Roma Fade" is about the fine line between romance and this, drawn on Bird's personal experience of how he met his wife.
  • The Wild West: "Way Out West" is an all-out pastiche of this era and style.
  • Uncommon Time: "Anonanimal" and "Don the Struggle" feature breakdowns in 7/8.
  • The Windy City: Bird hails from Chicagoland and has referenced it in many of his works, with "Pulaski at Night" being a full-on love letter to the city.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Many of the songs in Bird's first two albums with the Bowl of Fire find him adopting a strange, baritone, French-German-Slavic-sounding accent.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: His songwriting can get pretty cryptic. Many songs from his first few albums and Noble Beast border on nonsensical.
  • 0's and 1's: Discussed in "Masterfade," which is about trying to enjoy nature but being unable to separate it from technology.

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