From the opening notes of the aptly named “First Song”, you can tell that Andrew Bird recorded Weather Systems in a barn out in the middle of nowhere Illinois. After all, when an accomplished musician and lyrical wizard decides to kick off his first indie release after leaving Rykodisc with an acoustic flutter strum, high lonesome whistling, and nothing else is when you know he’s gone introspective. And that usually takes isolation, especially if you want it to stick.
And Weather Systems sticks with you, whether it’s the creepy atmospherics of the untitled fifth song (hey, find a name for it and I’ll buy you a beer), the carnivalesque “I” (which sounds like it leapt right off of Tom Waits’s canonical Swordfishtrombones), or the inclusion of Galway Kinnell’s poem, “First Song”, on Bird’s tune of the same name. Whereas his earlier work seemed to reach hungrily outward into diverse styles and textures, this release feels like an altogether lonely experiment. Like Bird moans on the beautiful “I”, atop disjointed Marc Ribot-like plucking, “We’re basically alone”.
Weather Systems is a hushed but densely layered success. It might be far too quiet to get Bird the much-deserved recognition that others should be heaping on him, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in punch. His quirky turns of phrase should make budding poets everywhere soak in their own jealousy; the labyrinthine musical phrasings are just icing on the cake. If you’re a well-funded publicist or producer, do the world a favor and give this guy the spotlight he’s probably shunned but should nevertheless receive.