It should be no surprise to any of you how much I love this man. It’s been noted time and time again on this site’s short life span, notes that will continue with every step he takes. To put it as plainly as possible: Andrew Bird is one of the most innovative and important musicians the world has to offer and will be for the rest of his time. Listen to his music, and I mean REALLY listen. Throw any album on that you’d like, it doesn’t matter. They’re all wonderful, they’re all quality, and most impressive - they’re all unique. While Bird’s style had always been it’s own concoction of sounds, I’d say that Armchair Apocrypha was, and still is, his most eclectic and ambitious record.
While his nurturing of the classical approach within the world of folk rock has always given his sound a bit of atmosphere, it’s here that I feel the atmosphere as the driving force. What I mean by that is that there is a considerable growth in the weight of his sound, a growth which can literally be heard due to a few of the tracks on this album stemming from prior releases (ex: Fingerlings’ “Sweetbreads” = “Darkmatter” // Weather Systems’ “I” = “Imotosis”). He expands from simple acoustics to create more full bodied pieces, but also keeping things controlled. Often, when artists decide to widen their scope they fly too high, the ambition overwhelming them, and it shows. Here he is in absolute control, making the expanse feel natural.
This album is so full of Bird notables that, like many of my favorite albums, it plays closer to a greatest hits record than an actual album. Then again, it could just be that I can’t imagine any of these songs parted from their bookends (a concept that applies to virtually all of his releases). However, after 10 years of consistent play it’s the breaks that I look forward to the most. Favorites like “Heretics” and “Darkmatter” are given life due the the sprawling “Armchair” that separates them. Or the seldom noted three song block of “Simple X” (mined from the much less beautiful Dosh track “Simple Exercises”), the interlude “The Supine” and “Cataracts,” all engrossing, utilizing their quiet strength and hypnotic flow to great effect.
What a beautiful thing, that a decade after the initial gems have charmed your ears off, the subtleties start to take on a bold new role. The fact that this option exists, that you rotate favorite moments long after you’ve bled the record dry, is a testament to just how good Armchair Apocrypha is. It’s a record that fires off incredible tracks like there’s an endless supply and slowly but surely finishes you off with poise and grace. It maintains a perfect temperament throughout, and in my opinion it’s his most balanced and well crafted record. Though I say that statement tentatively, I’m a massive fan of the follow up Noble Beast, and can’t say where my thoughts will be in 2026 when I’ve had a decade with his latest, 2016’s magnificent Are You Serious. But for now? Give me AA.
At the end of the day, my love of Bird runs deeper than my love for most. In the 12 years or so that I’ve been a fan I’ve come to attribute so much to him. He was there at the beginning of my foray into the expansive outer layers of the music scene, and I’ve kept him extremely close ever since. Both his musicality and lyricism have remained not only staples in my listening, but the standard to which I hold many other artists. He is in rarified atmosphere, and is showing no signs of stopping. Praise be and God speed Mr. Bird. Never stop.