The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Weather Systems are two of my favourite albums in the world, so what do you do when someone who is such a favourite becomes very good instead of pupil-dilatingly inspired? Well, inevitably you end up feeling slightly disappointed, even by excellent albums like this one.
Since Eggs, Bird seems to have pushed towards a more thickly layered sound, rich with instrumentation and somewhat at the expense of some of the clarity of his earlier recordings. Where previously every violin pluck or guitar strum was audible to the listener, now there is so much rich, textured swooning going on that I find myself missing the sparser early records.
There is, of course, a lot to love in this album. He lilts and sways his way through songs that tease the borders of sadness and whimsy, rarely entirely abandoning one for the other. And his musical virtuosity means that the actual listening experience is very rewarding, well beyond the casual ‘Can I hum this?’ reaction to a standard pop song.
Nevertheless, I do find myself thinking that the last two albums don’t quite match up to the genius of the two which preceded them, and although you can never expect a musician to simply repeat a successful formula ad nauseum, I am not sure I am a hundred percent in tune with the direction in which this Bird is currently flying.