This writer once almost found himself lynched and hung from Whelan’s ceiling for remarking that Andrew Bird’s previous album Armchair Apocrypha reminded him a little of the Frames. To that Kool Klux Klan that I blasphemously offended: stop burning crosses in my backyard, for Noble Beast has set me right in my ways. On his fifth solo record Bird has created his most beautifully transportative album yet, free of the indie-pop wing clips that stopped his previous album making its skyward ascent and confining him to the middleground.
Opener Oh No is the perfect example of Noble Beast’s sensoral adeptness, building a fire-warmed house parlour in your head, all leaf-yellow walls and gramophone fuzz. For all his violin virtuosity and adeptly diaphanous production (this album sounds like it was spun inside a silk worm) it is Bird’s mastery of mood that makes him so compelling. Not A Robot But A Ghost is a complete tonal departure, with fittingly spooky vocals over a frantic factory-floor rhythm, before moving into familiar yearning territory on Anonanimal, one of his more dramatic monologues. Souverian’s ebullience carries it through seven long minutes of romantic poetry, chamber pop and lounge-swing relaxation before a sly wink of discordant distortion wakes you from a blissful doze.
The ‘indie pop’ tag so often pinned to Bird’s breast is a burdensome one. Yes, Shins fans and Decemberists obsessives will find something to love here (particularly the triumphant Fitz and Dizzyspells, as sweet a violin track you’ll hear this side of the next Final Fantasy album), but Noble Beast operates in an entirely separate stratosphere than his conservative image belies. Quite simply, not since the majestic symphonic pop of Scott Walker has an artist so bravely followed their own forest path towards transcendence as Andrew Bird has, and you feel he is but a few paces away from his Eden.
See also: Final Fantasy- He Poos Clouds [Tomlab], Scott Walker- Scott 4 [Fontana]