52 Albums: Week 7
Break It Yourself is the first great album of 2012 but, it’s a grower, not a shower.
Some great albums are visceral — They grab you by the throat the first time you hear them and don’t let go. The Joy Formidable’s Big Roar, Mumford and Sons Sigh No More and The Gaslight Anthem’s 59 Sound are all recent examples of albums that I loved the first time I heard them and that have withstood the test of time.
Other albums sneak up on you. These are albums that are just interesting enough the first time through to warrant another listen. And another after that and another after that. Albums in this second category get better with every listen until, eventually, they become essential. Everything The National has released falls in this category for me, as does one of my favorite albums from last year, J Mascis’s Several Shades of Why.
Andrew Bird’s 2007 album, Armchair Apocrypha, has become such a favorite of mine that it’s hard to imagine it was not love on first listen but, as his latest album, Break It Yourself, grows daily in my esteem, I think back and realize, so it was with Armchair Apocrypha. That’s an exciting thought as, in the space of a week, Break It Yourself has already gone from merely interesting to my favorite album of 2012.
Andrew Bird’s sound, for those not familiar with him, is utterly unique. Bird is a song-writer, violinist and whistler extraordinaire. His albums are lushly orchestrated, classically minded indie-pop gems that reward repeated listens. Break It Yourself was recorded mostly live at Bird’s studio and the result is an album that feels less refined and more immediate than anything he’s done to date. Listen to “Danse Carribe,” a song that blends Americana, Celtic and Calypso influences effortlessly:
This is a well-crafted, carefully composed song but the performance brims over with life. So too on other standout tracks, like “Orpheo Looks Back:”
Break It Yourself gets the full five stars. I highly recommend it and, if you don’t fall in love with it on your first listen, listen again.