My Finest Work Yet

My Finest Work Yet

Andrew Bird was bold enough to name his new album My Finest Work Yet. After more than a dozen albums, the American multi-instrumentalist—and skillful whistler—believes he’s earned the creative license to poke some fun at himself. “If you really break down what I’m saying, it’s not quite as arrogant as it sounds,” Bird tells Apple Music. “I figured people will find it funny, and if they don’t get it, then it’s the power of suggestion. Then they’ll think, ‘Well, maybe it is his finest work yet.’” Through the years, Bird has taken his lavish chamber folk in many different directions. He remains faithful to his innovative spirit—from loungy jazz (“Bloodless”) and joyous gospel (“Bellevue Bridge Club”) to Queen-like theatrics (“Olympians”), Bird’s intricate arrangements, though meticulous, always feel loose in form and manner. A part of what nurtures this approach is that he tries not to overthink the album format: “With this one, I really tried to take everything that I value over the years and apply everything,” says Bird. “I never feel like I totally nail it. Every time there’s a new record, I tell myself, ‘I got it. I’m going to figure this out. We’ve cracked this.’ And that’s a good thing, I think.” Bird recorded the entirety of My Finest Work Yet live to tape with his studio ensemble, a technique directly inspired by the '60s jazz productions of Rudy Van Gelder. It allows him to better capture the dynamics of a song and react to the environment. “I don’t like doing songs track by track if I can help it, even if it may make the song sound more modern or magnificent,” explains Bird. “I feel a disconnect when I do it that way. I always feel like I sing and play better when I’m playing live.” With Work, Bird explores topical themes without relying on overly literal political sentiments, to avoid the risk of them sounding dated. He addresses everyday concerns—the consequences of class division, inequitable power structures—over historical references like the Spanish Civil War (“Bloodless”), the fall of Rome (“Fallorun”), and Greek mythology (“Sisyphus”). It’s a noticeable departure from 2016’s Are You Serious, where he meditated on stories about love and domestic life. It was a relief for Bird to step away from that period: “It can be rough when you’re writing songs about actual people in your life, as it opens you up to a pretty perilous situation,” he says. “It’s not a big deal to sing about it on stage or in front of an audience—there’s an unspoken contract there—but for every other realm, like in journalism, it kind of becomes open season. I didn’t enjoy that very much.” Bird still adds some of his personal feelings and thoughts behind his bookish narratives, even if listeners may need to dig a little bit deeper to find them. He’s confident that his fans are willing to play along: “I always give my audience credit for being curious and intelligent. A bit of ambiguity leaves room for the listeners’ imagination and it gets them more invested in the song.”

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