90FM Album Review: Andrew Bird- "Hands of Glory"
Connor Godfrey

Hands of Glory seems to be a rather abrupt release that came from left field; it’s almost as much as an EP as it is an LP by Andrew Bird’s standards. At 35 min­utes long (a quarter of that time being a lengthy instrumental), one could assume that is an unfinished product. It was also released within the same year as his lengthy album Break It Yourself, which came out this spring. Of course, that does not diminish Hands of Glory’s quality in the slightest, especially considering his last album before this year was Noble Beast in 2009. The two 2012 albums have a vastly different sound; Break It Yourself, while unalike Bird’s past albums, uses much more of his traditional whistling and pop-style production. Hands of Glory sounds like it was inspired by his barn along the banks of the Mississippi River, and has a much more acoustic and less produced style.

“Three White Horses” begins the album with a haunting bass line, in which Andrew Bird sings a grim tale of death and despair. This melodic track is one to write home about, and its nine minute instrumental reprise “Beyond the Valley of the Three White Horses” in succession is a great compliment. The reprise has a lot of depth on its own and ends the album in a gorgeous manner. “Something Biblical” is a standout track that contains some fantastic violin work from Bird, as well as fantastic ending solo.

Several of the tracks on Hands of Glory are covers of country songs. One of those songs is “When That Helicopter Comes,” another lyrically dark song with a cool Wild West feel. I tend to visualize a Breaking Bad montage of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman escaping from the D.E.A. who are chasing after them in heli­copters whenever I give the song a listen. Another country cover is “Railroad Bill,” a somewhat out-of-place track as it is a little more upbeat then the rest of the album. However, I imagine it will be a fun jam to dance to if one were to catch one of Bird’s shows.

Even with its peculiar characteristics, I will have to say my fellow Illinoisan has once again created a work of art that is one to behold. Hands of Glory speaks to Andrew Bird’s wide array of abilities, and I hope he continues to experiment with the album’s style in the future.