Album Review: Xavier Rudd – Spirit Bird




If Into the Wild’s Chris McCandless had cared deeply about the rights of the Aborigines, played the didgeridoo, and dyed his unkempt hair a surfer blonde, he would have had just about everything in common with Australian musician Xavier Rudd. The wilderness adventurer and the indie rocker share an unparalleled appreciation for one’s connection to the Earth and a fervor to live life for the journey, not the destination. Spirit Bird’s 13 tracks embody this, as well as divulge deep emotion (times get tough for a bed-ridden surfer dude undergoing major surgery) and ever-continuing musical growth from a man who plays various types of guitar and drums, as well as the didgeridoo – often all at once when onstage.

For several tracks, Rudd took a page out of Portlandia’s Moleskine and put a bird on several songs, including didgeridoo-heavy album opener “Lioness Eye”, “Butterfly” – a delicate tropical tune which the singer says a bird in a tree sang back to him, line by line, while recording– and the title track, which Rudd wrote about a red-tailed black cockatoo that looked “right through my eyes, right through the depths of my soul.” He also called this the album’s “chief” – with good reason, as it showcases his talent for restraint, ability to blend beautifully with a children’s choir, and capability for belting through the last fourth of a song as if emitting his final notes.

Spirit Bird is exactly what any musician would want out of a seventh record. It’s representative of Rudd’s career, as the sparse and warm “Follow The Sun” could have slipped onto 2004’s Solace (and the way Rudd croons the word “society” conjures Into the Wild images yet again – this time of Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack to the film), quiet “Mystery Angel” represents his sentimental side (“You were there for me when I couldn’t find myself”), and the nearly instrumental, ten-minute “Full Circle” dedicates itself almost solely to the guitar, which Rudd has an enormous talent for. But the album also shows maturity, both musically (“Comfortable In My Skin” – about Rudd’s surgery –  is a gem with earnest vocals and a back-porch harmonica) and thematically, as the musician continues to enjoy and process the beauty and wonder of life.

Essential Tracks: “Spirit Bird”, “Comfortable In My Skin”, and “Full Circle”