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Thrills is album like nothing you've ever heard. "Eclectic" doesn't touch it. This debut body of work from Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire spans almost every traditional music genre there is.

From the sounds on the album, you would think that "Thrills" was released in the 1920's; Even the artwork on the cover says "Roaring Twenties." It's got a touch of swing, heavy Jewish klezmer influences, generous gypsy jams, bits of bluegrass, and some late 19th century operatic borrowings, each adding very distinctive flavors to the album.

As varied as the influences upon "Thrills" are the instruments that comprise it. The violin plays a major part on the CD, which isn't suprising, since Andrew Bird got his start in the music business with the Squirrel Nut Zippers after wowwing them backstage on day with his feverish fiddling madness. The clairinet and trumpet, long-time swing standards, do generous duty. The guitar, both acoustic and electric makes refresingly different contributions, interesting and varied throughout; Some of the sounds it produces are mind boggling, especially on "Eugene." The percussion on the album could have been lifted straight from the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby or Swing Kids. Instruments I can't even begin to guess at are at work in the background, chiming in at just the right times.

All the songs on the album were written by Andrew Bird, except where noted. He does all the vocals, except for A Woman's Life and Love.

  1. Minor Stab - Jack Fine does nice, almost-traditional New Orleans trumpet fare on this track.
  2. Ides of Swing - The piano work on the intro sounds like something out of the old silent pictures. By far the most intresting part of the song occurs in the last 15 seconds; No, I won't tell you what it is - Go buy the album and find out for yourself.
  3. Glass Figurine - The music sounds like something you would hear on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Bird's singing recalls traditional swing music.
  4. Pathetique - Pathetique is adapted from a poem by German poet Heinrich Heine called Ich Grolle Nicht. Some of the original German text appears in the song lyrics.
  5. Depression - Passillo - An instrumental part; difficult to describe. My closest approximation would be salsa-influenced gypsy sounds. Written by Charlie Patton.
  6. 50 Pieces - By far my favorite piece on the album. It sounds much like a real Klezmer song. My part at the end where the instruments get faster and faster is my favorite part of it.
  7. A Woman's Life and Love - Features SNZ's Katherine Whalen on vocals. It's lyrics too were adapted from a German poem, this time by Adelbert von Chamisso.
  8. Swedish Wedding March - Another instrumental. The song is a showcase for a heartbreaking, near-classical violin.
  9. Eugene - This song has some of the best instrumental parts on the entire album; I can't even begin to describe it. The lyrics are an oddity, especially with Bird's singing off them - He some times stops in the middle of a line, starts it again later in the song, gets a bit farther, then cuts off again. It's not a fade, he just closes his mouth. It's refreshingly jarring to listen to.
  10. Gris - Gris - The music is provided by an early 50's-ish guitar, with jazz-like percussion. The last half of the song is Bird's lyrics, extolling the virtues of New Orleans and the Equator in general.
  11. Cock O' the Walk - Another song that could have been done on A Prairie Home Companion. I especially like the disjointed chorusing effect, for lack of a better term, where the backup singers are deliberately singing just a bit off of the main vocals.
  12. Nuthindian Waltz - An acoustic guitar and violin song, nearly Celtic in its style. This work is probably the most grounded in American folk heritage of the entire album, compared to the rest of the album's heavy European influences.
  13. Some of These Days - Written by Charlie Patton.

Credits:
Andrew Bird - violin and vocals
Kevin O'Donnell - drums
Josh Hirsch - bass
James Mathus - guitar
Jack Fine - trumpet
Katherine Whalen - vocals

Released on Rkyodisc in 1998.

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