Release Date: Apr 1, 2016
Record label: Universal Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
“Now you’ve got me writing love songs…” Andrew Bird remarks halfway through his new record, and it’s an interesting fit and direction for the 42-year old. His back catalogue is defined by a fondness for abstruse (not “obtuse” as Bird quips again here) word games around an arsenal of plucked, strummed and bowed violin loops and virtuoso whistling, so a change of perspective to more emotional and personal material is refreshing, and in turn invigorates the rest of the music. Bird changed up the backing group from his previous three records and picked a producer he worked with during 2005 solo breakthrough, The Mysterious Production Of Eggs.
Andrew Bird has released his new album, Are You Serious. Born out of the trying times during his wife's illness mixed with raising a young child, the lyrics of this album came to fruition on a getaway to the family farm in his home state of Illinois. This album takes his poetry and compositional prowess to new levels. The lyrics are matter-of-fact, highlighting precise word choice rather than lavish wordplay and extravagance.
Andrew Bird has fashioned songs out of formaldehyde and “Darkmatter,” “Plasticities” and “Anonanimal”s. But he’s rarely expressed himself with plainspoken vulnerability. Are You Serious, his 13th LP, isn’t a course-corrected confessional—he’s too fond of artful abstraction to write, as he recently told Paste, an “Andrew Bird Grows Up” album.
On Andrew Bird’s most plainspoken, personal record to date, opener ‘Capsized’ sets out his state of mind. Against a taut drumbeat and wandering bass-line he details waking up, post-break up: “spoon dirty laundry, you’re all alone. ” The overturned ship metaphor the song hangs on is uncharacteristically blunt, the sense of wallowing and dejection outright.
Reinvention is too clumsy a word for Andrew Bird, whose music has always sparkled with musical and lyrical ingenuity. But in the four years since his last full-length collection of songs, he has married and had a child, and his new album seems committed to a more earnest process of self-reflection. This being Bird, the knowing album title and title track poke fun at the idea, and elsewhere the introspection is leavened with deft wordplay and his usual twinkle-toed indie-folk.
Andrew Bird, in all likelihood, has never been accused of being a romantic. Historically, his lyrics aren’t concerned with the complexities that arise in an authentic consideration of love and the passions that attend it: gripping heartache, lacerating jealousy, the chest-cavity-crunching sensation of finding temporary yet ecstatic oneness in another person’s flesh. In this way, he has distinguished himself from other conspicuously literate gypsy-folk songwriters of a similar stripe; while they’re usually preoccupied with the lyrical potential of these passions stretched out and given symbolic form, he’s preoccupied with a more esoteric iconography of artifacts, landscapes, and interpersonal concepts.
Charming Chicago multi-instrumentalist and notable whistler Andrew Bird's new album Are You Serious is more precise and biting than his previous work, yet retains Bird's warm sound. Kicking off with the groove of first single, "Capsized," the songs flow together in swift fashion. "Roma Fade" features Bird's strong violin work over driving guitar and drums as he intones, "If I see you, how it changes me," the pointed instrumentation suggesting there's more than meets the eye to his often vague lyrics.
Marriage, fatherhood, and California are on the mind of Andrew Bird, whose tenth LP, Are You Serious, offers a rare glimpse into the enigmatic artist's personal life. Prior to this release, Bird's vast and perpetually inventive body of work has generally eschewed confessional songwriter fare, opting instead for the clever wordplay of a worldly observer who sets the scene but rarely lives in it. A lifelong troubadour whose wandering ways have seemingly found some respite as a Los Angeles family man, the native Chicagoan cracks open the door and reveals himself in a way that manages to strike an elegant balance with his more cryptic tendencies.
It would be fair to say that some of Andrew Bird’s albums seem more ‘serious’ than others. He’s been releasing records busily in recent years: last year he put out the instrumental Echolocations: Canyon; in 2014 Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…, an album of Handsome Family covers; the 2013 EP I Want to See Pulaski at Night, based around a central track about a street in Chicago; and at the tail end of 2012 the barnyard recording Hands of Glory. These are all fine records in their own right, each seeing Bird homing in on a central concept or conceit, in playful, experimental mode, questioning what it is that gives the album format its coherence.
Andrew Bird could have been a one-trick pony. With looping violin and full-lunged whistling, the singer-songwriter has quirks that can be effortlessly labeled as quirks, signature moves that allow for cheap jokes and soft-elbowed jabs by people who failed to really connect with the guy’s music. But as he churned out records over the years, Bird proved himself to be a relentless musician, a lyricist full of forgotten dictionary words, a violinist full of life, a songwriter full of melodies ready to stamp themselves on your brain.
At the bottom of a canyon, most men would howl. Isolated in the wilderness, unshackled from the pretense of civility, a yelp of primal kinship is supposed to rumble deep within, an exulting return to base instinct. Unless Jack London novels and Reese Witherspoon movies have lied to us, anyway. But when Andrew Bird went native last year, he didn’t so much as whisper.
"Get out your dictionaries," Andrew Bird sings on the title song to his latest solo full-length, an apt line for someone whose lyrics often read like the New York Times crossword puzzle. Through his dozen-plus albums, Bird has used his verbosity as a shield, a way of keeping some distance from the listener. Are You Serious contains some of Bird's most direct songwriting, as he states later on in the title track, "I'm going to cut to the quick/This is all non-fiction." Of course, there's that title, and so the directness carries with it the twitch of a smile.
Are you serious? That’s the question - or perhaps the statement, if the lack of a question mark is anything to go by - Andrew Bird is asking with ‘Are You Serious’, his thirteenth album and first for Loma Vista. With lead single ‘Capsized’, it’s easy to see what they saw in Bird’s slight reinvention - it’s a big, bold pop song that’s beautifully crafted with a mesmerising melody - the kind that you’d expect to propel him to a wider audience. This is the most playful and relaxed Bird has sounded in years, and ‘Are You Serious’ is all the better for it.
Andrew Bird has been crafting melodic tunes that straddle the line between folk and baroque pop for two decades, often oscillating between small-batch records like the down home Hands of Glory and more elegiac output like Break It Yourself. His latest, Are You Serious, is a perfect marriage of both styles, blending beautiful instrumental intricacy with some of the sharpest hooks and songwriting of his career. Bird called his work on Are You Serious "the strongest melodies and the strongest ideas that occurred to me over a three to four year period, distilled", in an NPR interview, and his bold claim is validated over the record’s gorgeous eleven tracks.
Some may knock Andrew Bird for sticking too closely to his shtick: the intricate looping violin melodies, whistling so precise it was used in The Muppets movie, lyrics concerned less with narrative than with witty turns of phrase. On the Chicago multi-instrumentalist's latest album, Bird takes an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. In the four years since his last album, Break It Yourself, Bird moved from New York to California, got married, had a baby and released four EPs, including a collection of covers of songs by alt-country band Handsome Family and an instrumental album recorded inside Utah's canyons.
It's probably fair to say that you usually know what you're getting with a new Andrew Bird release. Are You Serious bears the hallmarks of a great Bird album, offering swathes of melody and counterpoints, dexterous violin theatrics, cerebral lyrical prowess and delightful turns of phrase, and if that weren't enough, there's the usual vertiginous whistling too. What differentiates this album from previous offerings though, is a newfound sturdiness, with more dependence on the rhythm section than ever before.
BEFORE YOU LISTEN to Andrew Bird’s new album Are You Serious (and I’ll get it out of the way now: yes, you should listen to Andrew Bird’s new album Are You Serious), go out and get yourself a decent pair of headphones. There’s a lot going on in nearly every one of these 11 songs, and missing a single instrument in the mix means that you’re missing out on a key element of why this album works. It has plenty of flaws, some more obvious than others, and it comes close to running out of steam toward the middle of its 43 minutes, but the production and sheer musical prowess on display propel the album beyond its shortcomings.
Forgoing both of the whistler/violinist go-to instruments, Andrew Bird's 10th LP opens with hardish-rocking opener "Capsized." The Chicagoan soon returns to his orchestral layers and erudite lyrics. Habitually arcane, the former Suzuki student's recent domestication (marriage, baby) nurtured a comparably personal upshot. "Left-Handed Kisses" stirs formula with guest vocalist Fiona Apple's unmistakable lungs fanning that sassy, self-nodding standout's flames.
Andrew Bird’s career has been characterized by its prolific nature. Though it’s been four years since the songwriter released a full-length of original material, it’s not like he’s been dormant since. He released and toured behind a covers album of songs by The Handsome Family, began an instrumental series by recording in Utah canyons, and settled into his new Los Angeles locale by becoming a fixture of Largo At The Coronet, a venue known for regular appearances by the likes of Jon Brion, Aimee Mann, John C.