"This peculiar incantation, I'm sure you've heard it before," Andrew Bird sings on "Desperation Breeds ...," the first song on Break It Yourself, his sixth solo album.
As an introduction to the album, it's an interesting notion, both true and sort of false. Break It Yourself is pure Andrew Bird—flights of whistling; creative violin-plucking; and looping and poetic, if veiled and obtuse, lyrics. But it's also an album recorded with more restraint, more conventional song structures and a welcome looseness.
Bird's earlier experimenting and perfectionism take a back seat to songs that are both more joyful and more tender. Ballads like "Fatal Shore" and "Sifters" unfold like slow afternoons, calming and comfortable.
First single "Eyeoneye" (which gives the album its title) brings out the clanging guitars for a strong burst of indie rock. "Danse Caribe" pairs sweeping violin and acoustic guitar in Irish folk style, then jumps to some island percussion and back to a stomping jig.
"Hole in the Ocean Floor" is Bird's indulgent long song, an eight-minute journey that finds Bird at his most ornate and classical, providing an interesting contrast with the album's folkier moments.
The album's peak is "Lusitania," an achingly gorgeous duet with St. Vincent that begs for a full album of collaboration between the two.
Break It Yourself makes the most of Bird's incredible musical gifts and is Bird's most listenable and most memorable album.