While the title may call to mind pandemic-induced paranoia, Andrew Bird’s newest album, Inside Problems, delivers a welcoming sense of openness as lush, acoustic-based indie-pop flows throughout this ever-evolving artist’s stout offering.
Supporting Bird on this outing are Alan Hampton & Mike Viola (bass/guitar/vocals) Abe Rounds (drums) and Madison Cunningham (supporting vocals) all matching winningly with Bird on the opening track and more. Viola also produced the album as Bird’s violin, guitars and vocals are smooth in the rich acoustic surroundings.
Starting with the excellently layered “Underlands,” the song builds around Bird’s whistling skills, gorgeous background vocals, and lightly funky drumming which falls into a soulful pattern, running on and constantly engaging. The group is at ease from the easy strolling “Faithless Ghost”, bringing guest Jimbo Matthus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) along for the meandering, to the whistling augmented ’70s LA rock-influenced “Eight” that runs on too long with an extended, superfluous ending.
A sultry jazz vibe infiltrates “Lone Didion” in film noir style as Bird delivers a cinematic tale while folk guitar and whistling shift gears into Americana on “Fixed Positions”. The pumping strings of the title track are exhilarating as Bird sings about being newly born, evolving as people, parents, and society while “Make a Picture” uses ooh and aah backing vocals, punchy snare drum work, light popping/building violin, and bubbling bass to craft a strong effort on an album filled with them.
There is a gypsy flair to “Atomized” and very noticeable art-school Velvet Underground vibes coursing through a trio of songs. “The Night Before Your Birthday”, “Stop n’ Shop” and album closer “Never Fall Apart” all find Bird singing with a distinct Lou Reed style until he actually hits those high notes Reed never could.
Bird is constantly adjusting his sound and style, creating a wide range of songs on various releases and while he has probably already moved on to new pastures, Inside Problems is a warm collection of quirky, catchy tracks that capture a sense of aloofness assuaging listeners during these troubling times.