Racking Up Plays: “Eyeoneye” by Andrew Bird

What, he play violin and whistle like a champion, but he can't tie his own tie? (via Facebook)

These are the posts where I gush about some song that I’ve got a huge crush on at the moment, and you put up with it and listen because you’re a good friend.

“Eyeoneye,” Andrew Bird

Holy cow, it’s been far too long since I did one of these. I miss doing these. I worry that there have been songs I’ve had crushes on in the past three months that I haven’t lavished proper attention on. “Contraption/Soul Desert” by San Francisco’s own Thee Oh Sees is one. So is an older cut by another local band, “Hemlock 3” by Elephone. I probably should have written something about “Called Out in the Dark” by Snow Patrol and “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen.

Ah, but now is not the time to dwell on regrets. Now is the time to look toward the future, and I have a feeling that in the future, I’ll be listening to a lot of Andrew Bird.

With the possible exception of Spoon (which Metacritic objectively determined was the overall best artist of the last decade), has anybody been more consistently amazing than Mr. Bird? Everything this guy does is just … solid. Of course, the problem when someone is always good is that it starts to be unremarkable. “Oh, another collection of expertly executed, genre-blending ear candy from Andrew Bird? What else is new?”

I’ve been a fan of Bird since he was adding dazzling fiddle solos to the Squirrel Nut Zippers‘ hot jazz in the ’90s, and his plucky solo albums in the ’00s only solidified my admiration. Since 2009, his music has started to sound less like intricate pop symphonies and more like the work of an honest-to-goodness rock band, as he has settled on a core group of backing musicians. He reached the logical conclusion of that path with this year’s Break it Yourself. Even as it makes the harmonic twists and turns that characterize Bird’s songwriting, “Eyeoneye” approaches garage-rock territory with its live vocals and reverb-heavy guitars—and that’s by design. Bird set out to make an album that captured how the band sounds live. Everything was recorded as simply as possible, tracked in single takes with the band performing together in a barn.

The song builds toward a climactic finish, complete with an accelerando. Even that wasn’t exactly planned, as Bird explained recently to the A.V. Club:

We blew through the whole record to see if we could get any better versions than we did the year before. And while we were filming that one—we weren’t really going for a record take, we were just filming—something clicked in the middle of the song where we were just kind of doing another version of it for another camera angle, and we were like, “Holy shit. This is better than any other version we’ve done.” We collectively realized it. You can hear it in the middle of the song; a switch gets flipped and we race to the finish line. It’s this injection three-quarters of the way into the song. And that’s what you can only hope for, is that a recording that’s on a record has a real—that the tempo’s kind of fluctuating, the tempo’s kind of leaning this way or that way, but it’s anything but static. You don’t hear that much on records, because they track the rhythm section, and then you sing over it like it’s karaoke. I hear that in records and I don’t like it.

Preach on, brother.

Andrew Bird is performing at 8 p.m. April 13 at the Fox Theater in Oakland with Laura Marling. The show is sold out.

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