Andrew Bird: Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… — Andrew Bird’s new album is hard to write about, like trying to describe a dream. Coming after his 2012 album Hands of Glory, where he previously covered folk-tunes from longtime collaborators and muses The Handsome Family, his new album Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… goes even further with Bird paying homage to the Alt-country duo with an entire album’s worth of covers. With his signature violin and wistful whistle, Bird imbibes their Gothic Americana-rock with his endearing lightness.
It’s an album rife with contrasts. Like the favorite ‘Tin Foiled’ where Bird sings, in a chorus you’ll hear for days, “what is moving will be still/what is gathered will disperse/what is built up will collapse.” Hardly recognizable from the baritone bleeding original, Bird’s high pitched hum and charming violin, alongside backing band Hands of Glory, help bring these songs into the eclectic, classical territory expected out of the somewhat unpredictable Bird.
With Tift Merritt on guitar lending a cushioned base for Bird’s jumping vocals to fall on, those of a female balance his boyish pitch on songs like ‘Don’t Be Scared’ where the thrashing percussion is delicately woven through by soft guitar strums, streams of instrumentals, and the poeticism of the lyrics themselves. While the narratives of the original tracks are slightly obscured by the distracting depth of Brett Sparks’ baritone, Bird exalts them. In ‘Frogs Singing,’ pretty little plucks circle Bird’s fluctuating wail while on ‘Drunk By Noon’ delightful lyrics like “there once was a poodle who thought he was a cowboy,” are accompanied by the flutter of his shaking vocals while a perfect whistle breezes over the breath of sound The Hands of Glory create.
Songs about drunkenness and cheap whiskey bubble throughout the album like the refurbished True Detective theme song ‘Far From Any Road (Be My Hand)’ where Bird’s tantalizing use of instrumentals and choir ready crone float upwards and then fall down with the beautiful melancholy of the track. ‘So Much Wine, Merry Christmas’ makes one feel like they’re driving down a dark country road after wiping whiskey tears off a worn down bar until Bird sings “listen to me Butterfly, there’s only so much wine” and the sweetness of that country cordiality tints this dark brown lullaby with a glimmer of gold.
This album goes down like red wine, sweet and dreamy, a bedtime story for adults. Bird’s dense streaks of instrumentals and warm accents fill The Handsome Family tunes with new blood and birth a blushing future for the genre-bending artist, hopefully one that expands on the country character he’s dreamt up for us here…9.0/10