Rhythm & Views

Andrew Bird

"Apocrypha" comes from the Greek for "hidden," and usually refers to something inauthentic, with questionable origin. Its etymological cousin "apocalypse," on the other hand, means to reveal, to uncover. Violinist and multi-instrumental magician Andrew Bird's music has always balanced both apocrypha and apocalypse: On 2005's The Mysterious Production of Eggs, "Tables and Chairs" told us that "after the fall," there would be no money or countries--but there would be snacks. The future that Bird revealed through strings and whistling was always somehow unclear: When he sings, "Don't you worry about the atmosphere," is he being sarcastic, or sincere?

Armchair Apocrypha, ironically, is much more revealing and raucous: More electric guitars than Bird has used in the past coat the space between his voice and violin, and instead of binary code in the sky (see Mysterious Production's "Masterfade"), there are fiery plane crashes (see "Fiery Crash"). "Imitosis" reworks "I" from 2003's Weather Systems, speeding it up and expanding on the original refrain of "we're basically alone": "what's mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis." Things only get darker from there: "Scythian Empires" scathes ("their Halliburton attaché cases are useless, while Scotchguard Macintoshes shall be carbonized"), and there are definitely no snacks at the fall in "Simple X" ("so here we are at the end, the war is over, there's nothing left to defend").

But even with all of this fire and brimstone, Bird's songs are more gorgeous than ever. Armchair Apocrypha is the kind of art that places the world in front of you, in all of its horror, and reveals it to be beautiful.

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