Thursday, December 17, 2009

Andrew Bird - Effigy

Go to for the full list of our choices for this year's best songs.

Built around layers of looped violins eventually fading into an acoustic guitar and one of Andrew Bird's most striking violin instrumentals, "Effigy" is a song of loneliness and isolation. Whatever the song's specifics exactly are - ostensibly it's about a lone drinker at a bar who's short on companionship but long on existential laments, but with Bird, how the hell can anyone be sure? - it is simply one of this year's most powerful and relevant songs.

On paper the song's lyrics are dark enough, but its understated instrumentation and Bird's vocal delivery make the character's situation seem that much more tragic. A few key lyrics add to the track's poignancy; specifically, Bird's reference to "fake conversations on a nonexistent telephone," suggests that communication and social interaction are not among the man's strong suits. Perhaps as bleak a song as Bird has recorded, it offers little sense of resolution or hope. Time isn't on anyone's side and there's nothing romantic about a solitary life for a "man who's lost his way/ Slips away." It's not the first time Bird has written about such things, but the song is among his most direct and moving. "Effigy"'s arrangements, lyrics and vocals fit together perfectly, resulting in one of this year's most touching songs.

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