The product of numerous aborted recording sessions, rewrites and obsessive-compulsive attention to the slightest sonic detail, Andrew Bird’s latest solo album is as intricate lyrically and musically as the whimsical illustrations by Jay Ryan that accompany each song in the CD booklet. A quick study of the artwork-pictures of flaming livestock, a boy with an upside down head, and an automobile with an elephant trunk -lets you know you’re in for an atypical listening experience.
Bird’s primary instrument is the violin, but here he plays everything from a twangy Telecaster to a glockenspiel. Mysterious Production of Eggs is orchestral pop, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of merely layering some string parts over a basic rhythm track, Bird uses his rich tonal palette to produce a variety of odd swells and squelches that appear out of nowhere and then blend seamlessly with his sweet vocal melodies and nuanced lyrics.
Instead of a traditional chorus, the songs contain memorable repeated phrases such as “there will be snacks, there will” and “it’s a nervous tic motion of the head to the left.” Stream-of-consciousness yet meticulously structured, they transport the listener to a surreal world of twitching tango dancers and post-apocalyptic carnivals with pony rides and dancing bears. There’s a point to all of this, of course, you just have to dig a little below the veneer of absurdity to find it.
Andrew Bird has always demonstrated a finely honed lyrical wit and expert musicianship, but with his fifth album he’s finally hit his stride. Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs is a true gem-one of those rare albums that continually reveals new treasures with every listen. The treasure map might be confusing at first, but once you find the big red X-jackpot.
MattGajewski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.