Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird, a graduate of both the Squirrel Nut Zippers and his own band Bowl of Fire, takes a new route with his latest solo outing, swapping that earlier eclectic jazz-pop sound for a pop-rock approach with a more personal perspective. Melding ornate orchestration -- violins, whistles, synthesizers, and glockenspiel overshadowing the standard rock regalia -- he emulates the symphonic ambitions of Van Dyke Parks as channeled through ELO, albeit with more sobriety. The invention isn't limited to enticing aural imagery; the loopy lyrics and bewildering observations that punctuate Bird's musings ("My dewy-eyed Disney bride what has tried/Swapping your blood with formaldehyde," he sings on "Fake Palindromes") steer these songs from precious to precocious.
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