Andrew Bird Weather Systems

Andrew Bird must be endlessly puzzling to all but his most dedicated fans. With this intoxicating new disc, however, he stands to gain a few more. A visionary violinist and itinerant member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, he remained quietly dedicated to his own project, Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, turning out record after sublime record, and never quite gaining the recognition he deserved. Part of the trouble is the ease with which he switches from old-timey swing and ragtime to Latin jazz and soulful, dirty blues-tinged rock, often within one album. These transitions make any succinct description of his sound difficult, but it’s his stubborn insistence on following his own errant muse that is most rewarding. Fans of his most rock’n’roll album, The Swimming Hour, might be left scratching their heads, but the languorous pace of this album is a logical move for him. He is less a fiddler than a classical violinist gone astray, and here, finally, he takes full pleasure in his considerable talents. A cover of the Handsome Family’s "Don’t Be Scared” feels like an outtake from Neko Case’s Blacklisted. "Action Adventure” is the most seductive song, with a narrator happily entangled in his dreams. Ultimately, Weather Systems is a brooding meditation on the delights of being alone — made more interesting by the fact that Bird has recently moved to a working farm in Illinois. The subject matter here is generally not fraught love relationships, but the fraught relationship to the self. Clearly coming from someone in love with language, his words are so fully immersed in gorgeous space that it really does recall changing weather patterns: an interior record with a dizzying skyscape. (Righteous Babe)