On his Grammy-nominated 2019 album My Finest Work Yet Andrew Bird broke with his usual interiority to engage in some seriously dark humor in assaying the dismal state of the world. That impulse was both understandable and rather common during the bleakest days of the Trump administration, but with his latest offering, the eccentric singer and songwriter has retreated to contemplate the titular Inside Problems.
On “Lone Didion,” one of a couple tunes that make reference to the great writer Joan Didion, Bird unleashes a dramatic violin solo filled with nasal squiggles and vibrato-rich stabs that sounds closer to Hendrix than Paganini over a groove purloined from the Mad Men theme. Blending musical accents from a global mish-mash of styles and traditions within his meticulously plotted pop-rock, there are echoes of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” in the driving opening of his “The Night Before Your Birthday,” although its chorus sounds like something from George Harrison.
Bird, who recently expanded his resume with a dramatic role in the fourth season of the FX series Fargo, is a serious muso who can’t help but absorb new sounds that he encounters. More than two decades into his career it’s amazing that new ideas keep popping up in his hook-laden songs, perpetually give his craft an update without surrendering his core identity. Speaking about this creative process, Bird says, “I have so much fun taking my ideas apart before they really have defined themselves as distinct songs, when they’re still in that amoeba-like state. I love the feeling of chasing ideas and having them split off and go hang out with another idea and then [butting] them up against each other to see if they talk to each other.”