After five disparate albums, Armchair Apocrypha finally offers an Andrew Bird origin story. How did he get this way -- musical prodigy on violin, hyperliterate lyricist, folk music maven, masterful whistler, and so dark of outlook? "Dark Matter," which puns duskily on Bird's gothic purview, explains: "When I was just a little boy / I threw away all my action toys / While I became obsessed with Operation." Learning to keep a steady hand, not to mention a clinical eye for the bio-medical minutiae that pepper his lyrics, surely aided the restless future musician. "Thus began my morbid fascination," Bird croons in his downcast, yet conversational way, something like Bing Crosby after a bad day at the track. Armchair Apocrypha indeed continues that fascination, rife with wistful asides such as "We are all basically alone / and what's mistaken for closeness was just a case of mitosis" and updated Dorothy Parker-isms such as "your thoughts are so soft / I could cut 'em with a spork." Musically, Bird continues in the direction of his previous Mysterious Production of Eggs, which is to say, further away from the antique-sounding retro-isms of his early records and work with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and toward a more contemporary indie-rock sound. In some ways, the music world seems to have caught up with Bird, as his bedrock sounds -- violin, breezily bowed or pizzicato; whistling; looped drums; and churning guitars -- could appear in the output of bands such as the Arcade Fire, Psapp, or Broken Social Scene. But Bird remains idiosyncratically original. Even when engaging in rare topicality, as in criticizing the Iraq debacle, he's out on a limb: Who but Andrew Bird would see the mess as offering "breathtaking views of Scythian empires"?