Inside Problems is a record built from tangled sheets and night sweats. The relentlessly inquisitive Andrew Bird takes fevered late night/early morning thoughts and turns them into songs. Across Inside Problems he seeks reassurance and answers to both big and everyday uncertainties. He battles the what-ifs (“Underlands”) and worries about saying the right things to the love of his life (“The Night Before Your Birthday”). The problems at hand are familiar because no doubt you have also starred at a ceiling illuminated by the glowing numbers of an alarm clock as it turns from 2:08 a.m. to 2:09 a.m. and wondered “what if the world goes spinning off its axis?”
For all of this emotional discord, Bird sounds like himself. His trademark whistling and violin are all here, as is the familiar easy pacing of his folky songs. Recorded live with Bird and his four-piece band and featuring vocals from Madison Cunningham, Inside Problems sounds more like a dream than a nightmare. The shuffling rhythm of “Make a Picture” adds to the playfulness of amusingly self-aware lines like “Don’t you know that I’m an irrepressible optimist working with a fatal flaw?” and the title track’s light melody (a song where Bird charmingly states “don’t talk to me now, I’m molting”) could soundtrack a feather floating in the wind.
For his 2019 record — the boldly titled My Finest Work Yet (ND review) — Bird took on the world by writing wry and sharp songs about political strife and climate change. Although Bird turns his focus inward on Inside Problems, his songs feel no less immense. On its title track he concludes, “every inch of us, a walking miracle.” Our inner world is just as complex as the outer world.
Inside Problems is out June 3 on Loma Vista Recordings.