His combined whimsy and classy grace make him ripe for the KCRW crowd (horribly unfortunate when appropriation to an indie radio station is a measure of dullness), and yet, Andrew Bird has always been much too creative for a label like “dull.” An accomplished multi-instrumentalist who plucks, strikes, whistles and sings like he’s blowing a perfect, three-minute kiss – not unlike the equally-graceful Rufus Wainwright, to whom the description perhaps more literally applies – Bird is a man with true crossover ability, bringing just enough cabaret and jazz appeal to alternative rock to make it palatable to nearly any tongue.

Hell, check out the third to last page of the liner art of Hot and you’ll see a 23-year-old Bird playing violin with the Squirrel Nut Zippers. He’s a versatile man, that one.

But then, Noble Beast, his first since the brilliant (and arguable breakthrough) Armchair Apocrypha, is a bit of a safer bet. He’s got a belle of a folk ballad in “Effigy,” where he’s playing a solemn fiddle and muttering a lovely melody in duet. He’s whistling oh-so-subtly and singing along to a declining violin on “Tenuousness,” bringing collaborator Martin Dosh further forward in “Not a Robot, But a Ghost” and doing his best Books impression on “Anonanimal.”

Noble Beast isn’t quite as eclectic or grabbing as some of Bird’s earlier efforts, but gives him a rather clear identity, and it’s another flawless and attractive record to reaffirm the fact that Andrew Bird remains, frankly, more beautiful than you or I.

Grade: A-



Noble Beast is currently available.