Singer/songwriter Andrew Bird, over a span of eight albums now, has quietly moved from obscurity into something resembling mainstream. Whether you recognize his work in recent Residence Inn commercials, playing in a Barnes & Noble, or in your iPod, his quirky violin, guitar and whistling melodies find a way to burrow into your head. His latest, Noble Beast (released last week), finds Bird scaling back some of his eccentricities down to a still challenging piece of work that dares some radio airplay. What hasn't been pared back is his love of words, as witnessed in the song "Tenuousness": "From proto-Sanskrit Minoans to porto-centric Lisboans / Greek Cypriots and Hobishots / Who hang around the ports a lot." Now say it ten times fast -- and again while holding your tongue, just for fun.
Live, the multi-instrumentalist often builds a song's layers using loops, but when he plays "Fitz and Dizzyspells" on Letterman Tuesday night, time restrictions probably won't allow that spectacle. Instead we'll likely witness him move from guitar to violin along with his world champion caliber whistling. Either way, we should expect to hear a well-earned "wow" from David Letterman after the last note plays.
It's been four years since Franz Ferdinand's sophomore album, You Could Have It So Much Better, lived up to its title and landed with a thud. Since that time, the Glasgow quartet vowed to shake things up, and tomorrow sees the release of the result in Tonight: Franz Ferdinand. It's an album that despite the vow, sounds a lot like the last, albeit with the addition of some more inventive keyboard sounds. I, for one, thought You Could Have It... was better than most gave credit. That and the fact that they put on a good show is reason enough for me to be tuning in to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thursday night to see them perform "Ulysses" (or possibly "No You Girls Never No").
Finally, the latest season of Austin City Limits has been pretty good so far, and this week's lineup has to be my favorite, pairing the legendary Nick Lowe with the Oscar-winning Swell Season (Once's Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova). Lowe's famous sharp wit and ironic lyrics have given away to a more graceful delivery, more in line with his nearly 60-year-old voice, but expect to hear plenty of his classics (like "Cruel to be Kind") because the Basher is set to release a new collection of greatest hits called Quiet Please ... The New Best of Nick Lowe, in anticipation of Lowe's 60th birthday in March. And so it goes and so it goes and so it goes and so it goes...
Playlist: Picks for the week
Monday, January 26
Tuesday, January 27
Wednesday, January 28
Thursday, January 29
Friday, January 30
Saturday, January 31
Sunday, February 1
As always, be safe out there and check local listings.