After a long string of lush, intricately plotted collections of classically minded indie pop, crafty violinist, minutia-loving songwriter and peerless whistler Andrew Bird offers up Break It Yourself, an intricately plotted collection of classically minded indie pop that eschews the meticulous studio refinement of Armchair Apocrypha and Noble Beast. Recorded mostly live at his studio barn in Western Illinois, Bird, drummer/percussionist Martin Dosh, and guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker have crafted a sunny, unpredictable set of tunes that reflects the pastoral Mississippi river valley that birthed them. Meandering and soulful, the album relies on the usual pizzicato loops, orchestral flourishes, and oddball subject matter that's preoccupied Bird since 2003's Weather Systems, but for the first time since his Bowl of Fire days, it feels less like a one-man band. Stand-out cuts like "Orpheo Looks Back", "Eyeoneye," and "Danse Caribe," the latter of which manages to balance elements of Americana, Celtic, and calypso without coming off as contrived or fractured, display an artist in the kind of relaxed, creative state that can only come from putting one's feet up on their own desk after a rigorous bout of touring, which in Bird's case was about five years. This new-found "band" feel also makes itself known on more exploratory tracks like opener "Desperation Breeds" and the eight minute "Hole in the Ocean Floor," songs that despite their art rock lengths, remain engaging and immediate throughout. On first spin, Break It Yourself may sound like a typical outing, but repeated listens unveil an assembly of songs that are as verdant and mercurial as they are rooted in the Bird tradition.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger