Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Apr 5th, 2016

Andrew Bird: Are You Serious

andrew birdAndrew Bird
Are You Serious
(Concord Loma Vista)

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To some, falling in love, getting married, and having a baby might mean slowing down and taking a break professionally. However, to Andrew Bird, it appeared to have the reverse effect, inspiring many of the tracks on his new release, Are You Serious, and launching an international tour. When we last heard from him in 2015, Bird had released a fairly out-there, instrumental album (Echolocations: Canyon) that was recorded in, you guessed it, an actual canyon in Utah. Prior to that, fans (Birdheads?) were treated to the more folky and countrified Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… (2014) and Hands of Glory (2012) albums. Though we still got those trademark Bird swelling violin strings and an impressive wall-of-sound effect from using his looping pedal, he was also plucking and strumming his violin, giving his music an old-timey country feel. He added some snare, a thumping upright bass, and backing vocals to occasionally harmonize with (including Tift Merritt, a wildly talented singer in her own right). On past albums, his lyrics tended to be more than a bit verbose, erudite, and cryptic. Let’s take his song “Tenuousness” as a random example: “Tenuousness, less seven comes to three/Them, you, us plus eleven comes just shy of infinity/And as for those who live and die from numerology.” Sure Andrew, whatever you say. On his new album, this changes, as is bound to happen when your personal life does a bit of a 180. On Are You Serious, Bird comes about as close to making a rock record as he probably ever will. Though Highway to Hell it is not, as Bird’s trademark violin and languid vocals are still front and center. This time guitar and drums are added and a few tracks might even be described as “danceable.” The biggest departure is in the lyrics department. No longer will you be wondering “What in the world is that boy babbling about now?!,” because he’ll actually, straight-up tell you. “Valleys of the Young,” one of the strongest tracks lyrically, expresses how much changed for he and his wife once they had their first child. “Do you need a reason we should commit treason and bring into this world a son?/And leave the valleys of the young…of brunch and tedium./Where your friends will become strange to you just as you will become strange to them, and live across a great divide.” To many parents I’m sure (I wouldn’t know personally, as I am still among the “brunch and tedium” group), these lyrics are relatable, yet not even an ounce clichéd. On the album’s debut single, “Left Handed Kisses,” another strong track, Bird duets with Fiona Apple. Though he has been performing this song live for a while now, this is the best I’ve heard it sound. Trading off on vocal duties, line by line, Apple’s weathered, husky voice pairs perfectly with Andrew’s more pure sound, to create a song that I could easily listen to over and over on repeat. Though I give this album high marks and encourage you to check it out, more so do I encourage you to see him live, as this is where he truly shines.

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Andrew Bird: Are You Serious