Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha

June 13th, 2007 by Eric Anderson

Up at 6:45am. This morning’s treat was picking three strawberries from the garden, which were sliced and dressed on my morning’s cereal. Yum!

Another day of work focusing on a specific project. The goal is to get it finished up this week so that I don’t have to think about it next week when I take some time off for my 30th.

Did you know it’s music discussion time, Constant Reader? Well it is. I posted the following review of Andrew Bird’s new album at last.fm:

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So, I’ve been devouring Andrew Bird‘s new album, Armchair Apocrypha.

Chandra discovered this listening to our local NPR affiliate one morning. She heard Scythian Empires one morning so I grabbed it off of eMusic. I guess there’s still something to be said for discovering new music off of the radio.

At first, I was anti to the idea of even listening to this album. That was because of the title. Apocrypha is one of those $2 words that seventeen year old loner poets think is a $5 dollar word and happily use it as an adjective to describe ANYTHING in their writing. How apocryphal! And they don’t even use it right. Anyway, I digress. The point is I didn’t have high hopes for anything that had the word Apocrypha in the title.

But, wow.

This album is just full of fantastic compositions. Bird’s lyrics are solid from start to finish. The music isn’t too rich or too complicated, making it accessible on the first listen. But the music also avoids a lot of the trendy indie-pop conventions that are common among singer-songwriter acts these days.

Musically, Bird’s strength is his violin playing, particularly the pizzicato accenting many of the tunes. He also has this eerie theremin-like whistle that never seems to get old. He uses it just enough.

One thing that I usually find lacking in alt-indie-roots-pop-whatever music is poor, unimaginative drumming/rhythm sections. Not here. I find myself sometimes just listening to the clever, shuffling drumming. It’s never at the front of the mix, and it mainly serves to drive and frame the pieces, but it’s full of understated cleverness, that helps keep the tracks fresh.

The cream of the album though is Bird’s voice and lyrics, which from what I’ve read on the intraweb is the thing that people fall in love with the most. In moments he can move from Mark Kozelek to Roy Orbison to Jeff Buckley to a young Johnny Cash.

In fact he does just about all of that on the track Armchairs, which is easily my favorite on the album. With lyrics like:

fifty-five and three-eighths years later
at the bottom of this gigantic crater
an armchair calls to you
yeah, this armchair calls to you
and it says that
some day
we’ll get back at them all
with epoxy and a pair of pliers
as ancient sea slugs begin to crawl
through the ragweed and barbed wire

you didn’t write, you didn’t call
it didn’t cross your mind at all
and through the waves
the waves of a.m. squall
you couldn’t feel a thing at all
your fifty-five and three-eighths tall
fifty-five and three-eighths tall

I’m guessing this is the beginning of a long and lasting love affair with Bird’s music.

But, frankly, the thing that gets me the most is how much some of his music reminds me of Jeff Buckley’s. It’s absolutely haunting in some places.

Of course, Bird’s his own artist, and this is unique music. But, it confirms for me that music is its own spirit that can sometimes speak in the same voice through different mouths.

At least, it seems that way to these ears.

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This evening pizza was ordered, the garden was watered, the first peas were eaten, and the kitchen floor was swept and mopped.

Today is W.B. Yeats’ birthday. I wrote my senior thesis on the evolution of the gyre as a symbol within Yeats’ poetry. Specifically, on how the gyre itself provided a lens for interpreting the maturation of Yeats’ poetry. From an early romantic to the godfather of modernism, Yeats’ poetry became less rhythmic and more free-verse, or unstructured. Just as the widening gyre becomes less stable.

At the time, I had the sense, as I still do now, that I was writing 30 pages of extended bullshit. My insight wasn’t. My argument drifted between the text and the author as the subject of its gaze. This is a general no-no in literary criticism. While I was used to straight A’s throughout college, my professor rightly gave me a B on the paper.

I’m not sure whether Yeats’ poetry is in the public domain or not. Regardless, I’ll reprint one of his famous earlier poems here in celebration:

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

It’s late now, and I’ve had enough of computers for today.

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