I am a lucky man to possess this box set. Only 1000 people got their hands on this amazing package of music, stationary, and other goodies. I have to thank my girlfriend, Anne, for picking this up for me for our five year anniversary.
So what comes in the package? Two 180g LPs pressed perfectly and dead center (I can’t tell you how many albums lack a dead center cut), CD, mini doc about the making of the album on DVD, art book, lyric book, bird stationery, custom stamps, Jay Ryan Limited Edition 20 x 20 poster, and a reproduction of Bird family heirloom photograph featured on the album cover. That’s a lot of stuff and it makes it feel like you’re looking at some intimate Bird Family heirlooms.
Contents aside, how does it sound?
Very good, although not perfect. I think they did a reasonably good job mastering the tracks but I can’t but help feel that the sound is still a bit dynamically compressed. Instruments that are supposed to be loud (drums, cymbals) don’t ever sound as loud as they do in real life. Bird’s violin takes the limelight but sound a bit constrained, again because of dynamic compression. Cymbals sound particularly splashy and drowned out.
Vocals are at the forefront of the soundstage and they sound good but not great. For example, “Lusitania,” featuring Annie Clark from St. Vincent, has great vocals from both Clark and Bird but the voices sound restrained and dull. Bird’s whistling also didn’t sound quite right. If you listen to Bird’s whistling live at a concert, it’s definitely piercing and commands your attention. For some reason, this pressing of Break It Yourself just sounds dull and unengaging.
It’s a shame that such great music doesn’t have the fidelity to match. Unfortunately not many albums these days cater to audiophiles who want dynamically uncompressed sound. Most consumers value a normalized sound across the board, which makes music easier to listen to as background music but it also makes it less engaging when you actually pay attention. This is one occasion where I think the digital version sounds better than the vinyl.
Still, the sound quality flaws aren’t enough to hinder me from enjoying this album. It’s an unforgettable album full of great music and soul.