It’s a sweet start for Andrew Bird’s new offering, Nobel Beast – a collection of soothing and winding indie-folk tunes sure to be a hit among his loyal fans and new ones alike. The sweeping strings and twee whistle of Oh No (apparently influenced by a crying child on a flight) set the scene for an album of enchanting and catchy songs, many with darker undertones, but always a sunny melody.
The Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist starts with one of the strongest on the album and there are moments when the similar feel of songs gets a little tedious, but these moments are few. The mix of delicate Nick Drake-esque singing, lone woody strings and an occasional Latino influence makes for an incredibly enjoyable listen, and it’s clear Bird remains a talent worthy of his following.
Masterswarm, again with a theremin style whistle (somewhat of a Bird trademark) and its percussive handclaps, is like five songs in one and a pure delight throughout, as is the epic and achingly beautiful Souverian.
It’s the natural sounds that make this album stand out –hearing every brush of the snare and the picking of nylon strings in Effigy, where you can almost picture the fiddle player serenading the customers in a Parisian café, or the handclaps and thigh slaps in Tenuousness and the rollercoaster ride Anonanimal.
This album is a true joy to listen to in its entirety because it is an album – not just a collection of songs. Tracks range from 20 seconds to more than seven minutes, creating a real soundscape and something to escape in to. There are moments when the foresty folkiness makes way for something more raucous and raw, such as Not a Robot, But a Ghost, but the intimacy soon returns.
It’s nice to see some friendly faces popping up too, like Loney Dear’s Emil Svanängen singing backing on The Privateers, a simple and gorgeous tune reminiscent of Beirut with softer vocals, which stays in your heard for days.
Nobel Beast is full of gems. The production is thoughtful, the lyrics show emotion and wit and the songs visit and comfort you like a warm and loving old friend.
Words: Gemma Hampson