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CD Reviews: Andrew Bird, White Rabbits and more

Andrew Bird's

Andrew Bird's "Break It Yourself." Photo Credit: Andrew Bird's "Break It Yourself."

'Break It Yourself'
Andrew Bird
3 stars

In some regards, Andrew Bird is a known quantity, as is any reasonably prolific musician - but familiarity is the most necessary element of surprise. Through six solo albums and other assorted releases, the Chicago songwriter/composer has built a reputation that mirrors that of an auteur director: He plays a very difficult instrument (violin) very well, using loop pedals to create elegantly layered sound-fields that he populates with literate, imaginative lyrics. And he also possesses a songbird's own whistle that is without peer in popular music.

It's a unique assemblage that he has managed to keep from going stale - and, in fact, improve upon - by continually honing the balance between pop accessibility and esoterica. His 2009 album "Noble Beast" was his most successful blend yet, and it's matched by "Break It Yourself," which has a sparer, rawer sound than its predecessor. The sharpness and closeness of his string-plucking cuts through the open spaces and puts a steelier edge on several tracks, and first single "Eyeoneye" is an unexpectedly straightforward show of raised hackles from the normally anodyne and cryptic Bird, one that hides his titular message: "You've done the impossible now/Took yourself apart/Made yourself invulnerable/No one can break your heart/So you break it yourself."

'Milk Famous'
White Rabbits

The third record from this Brooklyn-based band puts a paranoid edge on their percussive, piano-based sound.

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