Andrew Bird whistles away winter woes on Noble Beast

Andrew Bird is an unlikely pop artist. A classically trained violinist who whistles throughout all his tracks, his lyrics contain words most typically found in an SAT prep course or biology textbook. In spite of, or perhaps because of all this, “Noble Beast,” Bird’s latest album (Jan. 2009) is a quirky, clever and catchy pop album. “Noble Beast” is an easier album to appreciate than Bird’s past endeavors. On previous records the listener often got the impression that Bird was not entirely sure who he was supposed to sound like. Though Bird had a unique sound, he would occasionally get lost between expansive classical orchestrations, folk leanings and pop hooks. On “Noble Beast,” Bird has reconciled these various influences for a far more polished, accessible and balanced effect without losing his distinctive style. “Oh No,” the first track and single off of “Noble Beast,” immediately sets the tone of the album. The catchiest whistle intro since Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks,” “Oh No” incorporates cymbals, handclaps, violin and understated guitar into a charming, head-nodding song. Andrew Bird’s live shows are impressive musical tightrope acts. Bird actually records loops in front of the audience and actively constructs his songs onstage. While it’s obviously not possible to reproduce that on a studio release, the track “Anonanimal” comes close to capturing the energy of Bird’s concerts. Spiraling layers and loops of whistling violin tracks weave together delicately – almost, but never quite, falling apart. When Bird sings within his tongue twisting lyrics, “I will become this animal/Perfectly adapted to the music halls,” the listener is inclined to believe it.In the midst of economic turmoil and uncertainty, Bird’s lyrics occasionally hint at something ominous. But “Noble Beast” is far from gloomy – it comes off as the work of a man with few cares in the world. “This is sure to misspell disaster,” Bird sings in the track “Masterswarm” and indeed, Bird may know things are going poorly, but his songs delight with serene hopefulness. Consider yourself equipped; “Noble Beast” will keep you whistling through the rest of this cold winter.