CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Andrew Bird; Kate Campbell; and The Dandy Warhols

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Andrew Bird
Break It Yourself
(Mom + Pop)

Andrew Bird has made his presence known at many ends of the musical flowchart, most notably as a solo artist toting a violin, unusual song constructions and a pleasant tenor. On his latest, Bird offers an ethereal vision that's singable enough to qualify as pop, contemplative enough to be folk and ambient enough to be meditative. His aesthetic seems to hail from somewhere between Appalachia and the moon, offering back porch comfort and an expansive sense of space. His seems a take-it-or-leave-it approach—you're likely to love or hate a pile-up of whistles, weird rhythms and whimsical lyricizing. His violin is an achey presence, weaving in and out of his clear voice with hints of Ireland and Kentucky. Bird has made himself indispensable by finding musical moods seldom visited by most artists, places of edgy, moody happiness and ease that demand repeat visits. —James Heflin


Kate Campbell
1000 Pound Machine
(Large River Music)

Kate Campbell's 1000 Pound Machine rocks as gently as a cradle in a treetop, with slow country-ish grooves and washy embellishments of organ and pedal steel guitar. Her dreamy, Nashville-flavored voice sounds very comfortable laid over these primarily piano-driven ballads, but much of the effort is also almost singularly derivative of Joni Mitchell, sampling classical themes and describing love-driven road trips and mechanical piano innards. While Mitchell is well worthy of imitation, she's such a melodic and lyrical giant with such an original, unmistakable sound (to the degree of the Stones or Neil Young), that it's really, really hard for any emerging artist to beat her at her game. The album's saving grace may be the Duane Allman-esque slide guitar and male vocal harmonies that up-play Campbell's more bluesy, southern side over the imitative Laurel Canyon hippie vibe. —Tom Sturm


The Dandy Warhols
This Machine
(The End)

Recorded in 2011 at the band's studio and entertainment complex, the Odditorium, this latest from the Portland, Oregon-based Dandys is proclaimed as a return to a more "guitar-centric" sound than the group's last three records, which featured a more electronic-influenced style. Opening cut "Sad Vacation" begins with a bouncing bass line as lead vocalist and songwriter Courtney Taylor-Taylor croons over scattered feedback squalls and a persistent beat. Elsewhere, the much-hyped cut "The Autumn Carnival" includes songwriting contributions from David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets) and describes an ethereal journey through what sounds like a funhouse from another dimension. The track is a gem whose mystery only deepens when you read the bios included on the group's website, which were penned by science fiction author Richard K. Morgan. —Michael Cimaomo

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