I’ve previously ordered some of the special edition vinyl pressings put out by Newbury Comics that I have enjoyed. (Yeah folks, this is a piece about colored vinyl woes, so those of you in the back row can feel free to heckle me here…)
However, perhaps this time, I wonder if I should have hesitated… I mean, buying Jeff Buckley’s first album on lavender vinyl was one thing (since it was ultimately put out by Sony, it stood to reason that the album would be pretty solid, which it mostly was).
However, I should have considered that an indie artist like Andrew Bird (ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bowl of Fire), fine though he may be, maybe just maybe might not be getting all the TLC his releases deserve even though he is on Fat Possum Records (a label I’ve had some excellent listening experiences with in the past, especially their 2004 release by Solomon Burke, Don’t Give Up On Me).
None the less, the prospect of hearing Andrew Bird’s fine album Armchair Apocrypha on LP was intriguing — especially as it is pressed on limited edition glow-in-the-dark vinyl.
I only have had one other glowing record (by The Flaming Lips with Yoko Ono) so I went for it on an impulse buy from Newbury Comics dot com.
In general the vinyl sounds pretty good compared to my CD of Armchair Apocrypha. The pressing is mostly very quiet and the music fares well in the vinyl format, the analog process (and, admittedly, playing though my trusty Bellari tube pre-amp) perhaps taking some of the digital edge off the music relative to the CD.
Armchair Apocrypha features a sort of compact chamber pop type sound replete with Andrew Bird’s violin, acoustic guitars, pianos, whistles and other special effects. There are in fact some bird sounds in the mix there as well as, probably, ukuleles too. Andrew Bird’s voice is warm and inviting as is his songwriting, falling stylistically somewhere between Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Buckley and Zach Condon (of Beirut).
All these elements conspiring on vinyl would require a perfect pressing to deliver the goods.
Side One is pretty much perfect.
Side Two… no so much.
It is a badly off center pressing and for this type of music that anomaly results in a very annoying wavering of the music — especially noticeable on violin passages, soaring vocals, piano notes and other long, held out tones.
Fortunately, the good folks at Newbury Comics have been very responsive and are sending me a replacement copy. As soon as I get it I will update this review in the comments section below to let you, Dear Readers, know if the new disc is better.
If you don’t want the glow-in-the-dark edition, there are regular black vinyl pressings available on Amazon or your favorite music store.
Armchair Apocrypha is a fine album any way you spin it, so its worth checking out this solid entry point to Andrew Bird’s music if you are not familiar with him. Whether you listen while glowing in the dark with your turntable in your person-cave, while driving in the car or riding the train during the morning commute, Andrew Bird makes really enjoyable — dare I say “pleasant” — modern pop music worthy of your attention.