NPR at SXSW 2007
Andrew Bird first surfaced in the public consciousness as a sort of hot-jazz hipster, albeit one with an eccentric side. Unlikely as it once seemed, Bird emerged as one of the most inventive and acclaimed multi-instrumentalists around. But his music quickly grew moodier and less tethered to trends — not to mention genres — as his creative output piled up. With Bird's latest album, Armchair Apocrypha, he continues to prove himself as a performer of significant elegance and depth.
The brainchild of New York-based singer-songwriter Zach Condon, Beirut draws on a wide variety of old-world sounds. Performed without a single guitar, Beirut's sweeping music seems vaguely old-fashioned and Eastern European. Condon is only 20, which has fed the considerable hype surrounding Beirut. His rugged, world-weary voice makes last year's Gulag Orkestar sound like the results of worldly — even otherworldly — music-industry veterans.