The Tender Sound of Empires Crumbling

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Scythian Empires"
  • Artist: Andrew Bird
  • CD: Armchair Apocrypha
  • Genre: Folk-Pop
Andrew Bird continues to prove himself as a performer of significant elegance and depth.

Andrew Bird continues to prove himself as a performer of significant elegance and depth. hide caption

toggle caption

Andrew Bird first surfaced in the public consciousness as yet another purveyor of old-time swing and hot-jazz music. Though odder than most of his peers, Bird once seemed unlikely to emerge as one of the most inventive and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist geniuses around. But his music quickly grew moodier and less tethered to trends — not to mention genres — as his creative output piled up.

The new Armchair Apocrypha finds Bird continuing to prove himself as a performer of significant elegance and depth, and "Scythian Empires" amply demonstrates his gifts for marrying obtuse-but-evocative imagery to uncommonly lovely arrangements. After painting a bleak picture of world events — complete with references to "black tar rains and hellfire" and useless "Halliburton attaché cases" — Bird wanders off into ancient conflicts, by association demonstrating the permanence of conflict.

As unsettling as its subject matter can be, "Scythian Empires" functions most notably as a showcase for Bird's remarkable instrumental gifts, with tenderly picked strings gathering support and strength as the song progresses. Societies may be crashing down around him, but Bird makes the destruction sound more bittersweet and beautiful than apocalyptic.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Featured Artist

Andrew Bird. Cameron Wittig/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Cameron Wittig/Courtesy of the artist

Purchase Featured Music

Armchair Apocrypha

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Armchair Apocrypha
Andrew Bird

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?




Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from