The year’s best offbeat rock — so far

In an age when technology seems to drive (and often overwhelm) every hit song, Andrew Bird, a classically trained violinist, plays music that’s powerful because of its graceful simplicity.

His new CD, Armchair Apocrypha (out 3/20), highlights, to marvelous effect, Bird’s most basic instrument: his mouth. In addition to playing violin, guitar, and glockenspiel, he also whistles. This might sound like a small thing, but his whistling — sweeping across the opening of should-be hit “Dark Matter,” haunting the background of the mournful but catchy “Spare-ohs” — makes Armchair Apocrypha a stunningly singular record.

The Swedish indie rockers Peter Bjorn and John had a whistling hit with “Young Folks” last year, but nobody strikes the high, lonesome note as expressively as Bird. With Armchair Apocrypha, his knack for conjuring atmosphere and for hooky songwriting — an uncommon combination — has produced a gem.

“>HEAR two songs from the new album on Andrew Bird’s MySpace page

“>WATCH Andrew Bird’s appearance on children’s television as “Dr. Stringz”

“>BUY Armchair Apocrypha

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The year’s best offbeat rock — so far