Andrew Bird’s rise to fame within indie circles can be attributed to a few things. There’s his choice to record his albums almost entirely by himself and perform in the same fashion. There’s the distinct similarity to The Beatles — listen to his song “Fake Palindromes” if you’re not convinced.
But the most distinguishing factor is that he only makes music that he wants to make. By doing so, he gives us records that either succeed — 2005’s “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” — or fail — 2009’s “Noble Beast” — based on his vision alone, outside pressures be damned.
“Hands of Glory,” Bird’s second album this year, falls primarily into the first category.
The album is meager — spanning only 36 minutes — yet it still impacts the listener the same way a lengthier record might.
This is probably because the album doesn’t contain a single song that is particularly up-tempo. Even one of the slightly upbeat numbers, “Railroad Bill,” is a fairly slow song except for a well-placed interjection of violin.
Normally an album would suffer from such lack of speed, but Bird makes it a strength, creating an introspective album that slowly settled in my ears like a fine dust. This effect is apparent in album-opener “Three White Horses.” Bird waits until two-thirds of the way through the track to open up and showcase his vocal chords and guitar work.
Over its eight-track duration, the album really only falters during the sixth song, “If I Needed You.” The song is a cover of the 1981 country track by Townes Van Zandt and feels out of place. It is a glaring misstep on an otherwise solid album.
Fortunately, the album doesn’t stumble elsewhere. “When That Helicopter Comes” feels heavily influenced by Iron & Wine and methodically grooves from start to finish. “Something Biblical” is an acoustic slow-burner overflowing with emotion. The final track, “Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses,” is almost entirely instrumental, demonstrating Bird’s masterful violin work before fading out to the sound of crickets.
So while this album is a slight departure from Bird’s previous outings in terms of tempo and genre, “Hands of Glory” is another great album to add to his already rather impressive discography.
The verdict: Slower and more folksy than Bird’s previous work, “Hands of Glory” is a mostly worthy listen.
Reach reporter Nathan Taft at email@example.com. Twitter: @Nathantaft
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