Soldier On EP
For some reason when I see that an artist is releasing an EP I have the natural tendency to dismiss whatever music is on the disc without thought. I generally assume that if the songs were any good they would be on a proper album. However, on occasion I have submitted to the alluring call of the catalogue completist and purchased an EP. In most cases I have been less than impressed. Off the top of my head I can’t think of one EP that I consider essential to my musical life. Maybe your musical life is different, but EP’s are just not generally essential to mine. I don’t need more music, in fact I’d probably do well to limit the music I let into my life. I don’t need alternate versions of songs, no matter how much I love them. And I certainly don’t need to own an EP to validate my love of an artist by owning everything they’ve ever released. I just don’t. Now for the contradictions.
Having said so much, Andrew Bird’s EP Soldier On is amazing! (including the alternate versions of ‘Plasticities’ and ‘Heretics’). And this conclusion is not biased by the fact that Andrew Bird’s Mysterious Production of Eggs is one of my favorite albums of all time, although it is. Armchair Apocrypha left me a little concerned that Eggs was just a flash in the pan of greatness. Don’t get me wrong Armchair is good, but there is a distinct line between a good album and a great one, and for me Armchair just didn’t approach the level that Eggs mastered. And then comes Soldier On. Given my inherent skepticism of EPs, it is even more remarkable to me that I can get so excited about a paltry six new songs, and two re-workings of old ones, but Soldier On has reignited my confidence in Andrew Bird. ‘The Trees Were Mistaken’ and ‘How You Gonna Keep ‘em Down on the Farm’ rival any song on Eggs as some of Bird’s best. And the ‘early version’ of 'Heretics' gives insight into the intricacies of Bird’s songwriting, and in my opinion eclipses the album version. Bird shows that his unique style has in no way pigeon holed him. His rhythms and melodies continue to expand and soar. For my money it just doesn’t get much better.