Appropriately enough, Noble Beast, the latest recording by Chicago's Andrew Bird (on tour with Loney, Dear), boasts some notably avian moments: "Fitz and the Dizzyspells" is among the tracks that feature whistling, and "Masterswarm" includes simulated birdsong that may or may not have been created by a theremin. But Bird doesn't treat these elements as aural novelties. Rather, they're incorporated in a sound design that's often busy but never feels overcrowded. The melodies lope along breezily, requesting attention instead of demanding it, and Bird seldom raises his voice. He warbles far more often than he belts, rightfully confident in the allure of subtlety, and his lyrics display a verbosity and intellectual curiosity befitting song titles such as "Tenuousness" and "Nomenclature." Not that his material is entirely benign. Although he declares in "Oh, No" that "we are harmless sociopaths," his tunes are more than capable of leaving a mark — and of taking flight.
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