Andrew Bird - “Hark” Review
A gentle ease into the holiday season, acclaimed indie musician Andrew Bird is back with his Christmas album “Hark!” to help transition folks from autumn into the winter season.
Arguably best known for his song “Pulaski at Night,” Bird has been a present sound in the Indie genre since the early ‘90s. Gradually, Bird has garnered a cult following and has even been nominated for a few Grammy awards.
Well admired for his trademark violin work and exceptional whistling abilities, Bird has been refining his sound for decades. Recently deciding to provide his own unique spin on a holiday album, Bird offers listeners several interesting self-written tunes and covers of classic holiday songs.
Leading with a cover of musician John Cale’s song “Andalucia,” Bird kicks off the album with a tender swaying composition that builds into a pleasant sing along. With an almost log cabin rustic feel, the tracks sound reminiscent of music from a children’s show like “Over The Garden Wall”
The album keeps up the momentum with the shadowy “Alabaster.” With a strange yet inviting humming structure, the track feels like a perfect capture of the feeling of the transitionary period between the fall and winter months.
Bird really allows his violin work to take the stage with the track “Greenwine,” which is carried beautifully by Bird’s excellent balance between soft vocals and light strings. Bird also displays his whistling talents on the original song “Christmas in April,” which acts as a meditation on the potentially lost holiday season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other highlights include the upbeat “Souvenirs” and the warm “Night’s Falling.”
Throughout the album, Bird is able to display his genuine character by relying heavily on an approachable acoustic feel. The opening half of the record is fairly strong but later becomes a tad unbalanced due to the succession of whistling instrumentals featured on the record.
While some instrumental tracks such as Bird’s renditions of “Oh Holy Night” and “Christmas is Coming” stand out amongst the track list, many instrumentals fail to be all that memorable. For instance, “Mille Cherubini in Coro” fails to captivate the audience because of the piercing whistle spikes against its light strums of strings.
Another weak point on the record is Bird’s cover of the classic “White Christmas.” It’s almost shocking how a song so iconic could come off so lackluster, the song is slowed down to a tedious crawl.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the album is the drift into slow-paced material. While the opening of the album balances the sound fairly well with a play off of fast and slow-paced tracks, the latter half becomes stagnant due to Bird’s overreliance on slower compositions.
While the album has some rough patches, the record does come to a satisfying conclusion thanks to Bird’s impassioned cover of “Auld Lang Syne.”
With a genre as competitive as Christmas albums, Bird stands out thanks to his violin work and whistling abilities, but his offerings lack any real revisiting potential. It is unlikely that any of Bird’s covers will truly dethrone any of the classic versions of the songs he sings, but he does offer some self-written work which carries some genuine weight.
“Hark!” is definitely an album fans will love and newcomers will be able to appreciate. Bird offers several solid hits and a few unfortunate misses. Hopefully on a future release, Bird will be able to strengthen the flow between his violin work, tender vocals and whistling so that his albums do not feel lopsided.
Reviewer’s Favorite Songs: “Oh Holy Night” and “Alabaster”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “White Christmas” and “Mille Cherubini in Coro”
Scott Perdue is a senior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Secondary Education
Scott Perdue is a student studying secondary education at Penn State University. He is passionate about voice and conversation mediums. He believes that music and film are an important form of communication and enjoys constructively criticizing an artist’s work.