Andrew Bird: Noble Beast
In stores tomorrow via Fat Possum
Possibly due to my complete lack of ability in the whistling department, Andrew Bird's own whistling skills are always what impress me most on his albums. Not that there is any shortage of talent to be impressed by on his newest solo effort, Noble Beast. In particular, Bird's violin skills are more prominently displayed this time around, notably on the beautiful but melancholy "Effigy," which seems to document Bird's solitude.
His trademark wordplay is also present throughout. Toward the end of the album, "Anonanimal" begins, "I see a sea anemone/ the enemy/ see a sea anemone/ and that'll be the end of me." Say that ten times fast. While 2007's Armchair Apocrypha saw Bird harness his many abilities, Noble Beast sees him playfully lay them out for all to enjoy. The songs are often less immediate, but they are given more room to breathe and are better for it.
Bon Iver: Blood Bank E.P.
In stores now via Jagjaguwar
Forget about the groundhog. Justin Vernon just delivered many more weeks of winter with Blood Bank, the follow up EP to his startling debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. The first two tracks would have fit in seamlessly with Emma's material. Both are gorgeous, melodic representations of loneliness and nostalgia. The last two songs, however, are more experimental for Vernon. "Babys" begins with a relentless keyboard riff, and "Woods" is as sad and Auto-Tune friendly as 808's & Heartbreak. Although an interesting departure, the effect serves to emotionally detach the listener. Hiccups and all, Blood Bank reminds us why we fell in love with Vernon's work in the first place.
- Deanna McLafferty