A Mind for Madness

Musings on art, philosophy, mathematics, and physics

Andrew Bird/Duncan Sheik Joint Post

2 Comments


This amazing and awful thing happened this year. The two people that I feel a strong need to buy an album of on the day it releases both released their new albums at the end of January. These two people are Duncan Sheik and Andrew Bird.

Let’s start with the Bird. I am firmly convinced that this is his best album yet. This is a bit of a relief, since I felt that his previous one took a step down. I thought that his previous one fell massively in lyric creativity, and was much more mainstream musically. Although I was very happy in the direction he was heading with overall sound. That’s why I always recommend Mysterious Production of Eggs for someone interested in getting to know his music.

This album did the perfect combination. It kept going in the interesting sound that I liked from the last one, but brought back the lyrical inventiveness and quirkiness of his earlier stuff. In fact, I might argue that this album places Bird as the nation’s greatest creator of word play and association. Even the New York school of poets didn’t invent stuff this great. Here is something from “Anonanimal”:

I see a sea anemone
The enemy
See a sea anemone
And that’ll be the end of me.

Underneath the stalactites
The troglobites lost their sight

Sometimes the associations are much deeper than just in sound, though. I tend to classify Bird associations in the categories: juxtaposing two words that sound similar and have different meaning, juxtaposing two words that have similar meaning but don’t sound the same, or the most subtle of all, juxtaposing one word that conjures the other through societal associations. It is utterly amazing to hear this constant flow of associations that sometimes linger on an idea or flow through ideas that are completely unrelated except through sound. I tend to walk around as happy as can be.

Duncan Sheik brings a different side to things. If Bird is uplifting, nothing can be a bigger downer than this new Sheik album. Let’s just give two examples:

Lily keeps the lighthouse
She’s afraid of the unknown
She’s no ray of sunshine
So mostly she’s alone

No one cares about her longing
Or the dreams on which she’s fed
And though I’m sad to say it
She’d be better off dead

etc…as it runs through many scenarios in which people would be better off dead. The harshness doesn’t end there, though:

Life is like a sinking ship
And you are at the wheel
See the hulls filling up
You know your fate is sealed

Still you keep on trying
To steer the ship to shore
It’s time to learn a lesson
You should’ve learned before

There’s nothing you can do
And we don’t believe in you

I must admit that at first I was so engulfed by this album that I couldn’t even bring myself to listen the Bird for the first time. I was in some sort of shock that someone could write music like this. It moved and disturbed me. In the long run this album may end up getting a thumbs down, though. It is technically not a “Duncan Sheik” album, but him singing songs he wrote for some sort of musical or something.

I do like the on going narrative of the album, but the lyrics and music get a bit too music theater cliché at points. The album before this one was the cast recording of his musical Spring Awakening. The one before that wasn’t all that impressive to me either. That being said, it is without a doubt worth spending time with. I just have a feeling that it will get old fast and won’t be extremely friendly to re-listens. For the person unfamiliar with Sheik I’d start with either Humming (the most original and creative of his works in my opinion) or Daylight (the most polished and probably most listener friendly). Proceed from there as you wish.

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Author: hilbertthm90

I write about math, philosophy, literature, music, science, computer science, gaming or whatever strikes my fancy that day.

2 thoughts on “Andrew Bird/Duncan Sheik Joint Post

  1. Funny, I had a (sort of) opposite reaction to Bird. I LOVED the last album and at first wasn’t sure what to make of this one. But it grew on me mighty fast.

    Oh, and then this popped up in my google reader this morning: http://tinyurl.com/d5yvms

    Salsify!

  2. Thanks for your comment on my blog. I had a chance to see Andrew Bird live recently at The Music Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the night, I think, before his Carnegie Hall show. His musicianship was first rate. A shame his band was overshadowed by him.

    You may want to check out my literary blog “hitherandthithering waters” sometime at: http://www.johnmadera.blogspot.com

    Also, Bookslut.com has just posted a review of mine at:

    http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2009_01_014006.php

    I think I may end up getting wonderfully lost within your links myself.

    Take care,

    John

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