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.
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