Much has been made of the liner notes to Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs. I haven’t read a review that hasn’t mentioned Jay Ryan’s artwork, which is, to be fair, near perfect for this album. But the most striking aspect the booklet to Bird’s fifth album is the paper. It’s organic or recycled, off-white with flecks of brown. It appears no two copies of the album should look exactly the same, just as no two listens to the music inside ever yield the same results.
Bird’s music is the kind that makes me doubt the capabilities of one person. No one should be capable of such skilled songcraft, guitar work, violin playing and production. The Mysterious Production of Eggs is equally dense on all fronts. As such, every listen reveals a new layer. Whether it’s a casually dropped lyric, some extra harmony lurking in a reverbed background, or a swell of overdubbed violins, there’s always something in every song that can be overlooked. To think about Bird’s sheer talent borders on painful over-stimulation.
What’s remarkable is how progressive the album is for Bird. It betrays nearly nothing of his musical history. Almost surprisingly for a classically trained violinist and former sometime-member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers (not to mention having tackled pseudo-jazz and swing as a member of Bowl of Fire), Eggs is an unfaltering rock album. Bird’s vocal delivery lies somewhere between Rufus Wainwright and Stephen Malkmus (the latter even shining through on the entirety of “The Naming of Things”), and the string-heavy orchestration often recalls Jon Brion.
Everything else about the album just feels like magical coincidence. The finger-picked guitar parts, derivative of his pizzicato plucking, are due to Bird’s billing of the violin as his prime instrument. The glorious intersection of “whistler” and “producer” is revealed on “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” in which a whistled melody, processed as if to resemble recording in some open desert, becomes the centerpiece of a sweeping epic. And that all of this musicality would be bestowed upon such a master of non sequiturs and quirky wordplay is a gift from some higher power that no rock critic could ever speculate upon. Indeed, the benevolent forces that brought this album into being are as mysterious as those that the title refers to.