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The Late Movies: Andrew Bird, Whistling Violinist/Singer/Guitarist

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Andrew Bird is my favorite violinist, partly because he's not just a violinist. He's a master whistler, singer, guitarist, xylophonist, and looper -- that last one is particularly interesting. By using digital looping effects, he's able to create the sound of an entire band by himself. In some settings, he trades off playing violin and guitar, setting up loops behind him. It's fantastic stuff, especially live -- I saw him at Coachella some years ago, and his whistling sticks with me. Oh, and he also writes for the New York Times. Have a listen.

"Tenuousness," 2008

Live in The Basement, Bird sets up a loop plucking his violin, plays over it, sings over it, and eventually switches to guitar. Mesmerizing.

"If I Needed You," During Hurricane Sandy

With Tift Merritt and Alan Hampton on Letterman, during one of Dave's audience-less shows due to Hurricane Sandy. First, think back to Sandy. Imagine you're in New York during the storm, doing a show with nobody in the audience. Got it? Now, settle back and listen to these three sing into a single microphone. Simply beautiful, and somehow simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking. If you stick around to the very end, you can see the empty auditorium. Note: this is a Townes Van Zandt tune.

Note: I'm pretty sure Hampton retunes his bass on the fly during this song (he reaches up to the headstock at one point). Major bonus points.

"Plasticities," 2008

Showcasing Bird's whistling chops (starting around the one-minute mark), this is another cut from Bird's apparently nearly audience-less show at The Basement.

"Anonanimal," Live on Cemetery Gates

One YouTube commenter sums it up: "This is the music I'd? like to die listening to."

"Imitosis," 2007

In Paris, with help on percussion. From his terrific Armchair Apocrypha tour.

"Effigy," 2009

From the lovely Noble Beast, this one takes a melodic turn around one minute in. With a full band, for a change.

With Yo-Yo Ma

Improvising to "Dona Nobis Pacem."

Bird's TED Talk

In this nineteen-minute talk, Bird plays and explains a bit of what he's doing. At the 5:30 mark, he explains his song "Eyeoneye," then plays it around 9:30. The finished song later appeared on Break It Yourself.

Fever Year

Apparently Bird suffered a fever...for a year. He continued playing and touring, and the year is captured in a documentary entitled Fever Year. I really want to see this. Here's the trailer.

Official Trailer (2:45) from Andrew Bird: Fever Year on Vimeo.

Getting Started With Andrew Bird

If you're new to Bird, I recommend Armchair Apocrypha. If you like this, there are many more great Bird records.

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Australian Charity Releases Album of Cat-Themed Ballads to Promote Feline Welfare
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An Australian animal charity is helping save the nation’s kitties one torch song at a time, releasing a feline-focused musical album that educates pet owners about how to properly care for their cats.

Around 35,000 cats end up in pounds, shelters, and rescue programs every year in the Australian state of New South Wales, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Microchipping and fixing cats, along with keeping closer tabs on them, could help reduce this number. To get this message out, the RSPCA’s New South Wales chapter created Cat Ballads: Music To Improve The Lives Of Cats.

The five-track recording is campy and fur-filled, with titles like "Desex Me Before I Do Something Crazy" and "Meow Meow." But songs like “I Need You” might tug the heartstrings of ailurophiles with lyrics like “I guess that’s goodbye then/but you’ve done this before/the window's wide open/and so’s the back door/you might think I’m independent/but you’d be wrong.” There's also a special version of the song that's specifically designed for cats’ ears, featuring purring, bird tweets, and other feline-friendly noises.

Together, the tunes remind us how vulnerable our kitties really are, and provide a timely reminder for cat owners to be responsible parents to their furry friends.

“The Cat Ballads campaign coincides with kitten season, which is when our shelters receive a significantly higher number of unwanted kittens as the seasons change,” Dr. Jade Norris, a veterinary scientist with the RSPCA, tells Mental Floss. “Desexing cats is a critical strategy to reduce unwanted kittens.”

Listen to a song from Cat Ballads below, and visit the project’s website for the full rundown.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]


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