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Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself (Mom and Pop Music)

Detroit quartet releases new EP of agitgroove



Long after the novelty of his violin and whistling virtuosity has faded, we were left with the concept of Andrew Bird as a mildly off-kilter singer-songwriter — and occasionally, as on 2009's Noble Beast, a great one. His latest record, however, will do little to dispel the charges of those that find his output increasingly turgid in its spotlessness; Break It Yourself is dinner music by and for the sort of person whose most adventurous restaurant order is likely a dry chicken wrap with a side of white rice.

It begins strongly enough — Bird's voice cries out over a broad emotional expanse on the hushed, seductive opener "Desperation Breeds,” followed by colonial lilt "Danse Caribe” that twists into unexpected North African and bluegrass textures — and features scattered moments of romantic joy, not to mention a fine guest spot from Annie Clark (St. Vincent), but it plainly reveals a dearth of artistic decision-making. The album would be far stronger at two-thirds the length, and its songs will likely play better out of context, whether on stage or in shuffle mode; in present form, it's pretty but interminable.