Many critics thought Andrew Bird would be a “one trick pony.” His use of violin and emotional lyrics are easy to joke about. But, it’s undeniable that he’s a thoughtful lyricist whose quirkiness won fans over in the 90s. As he’s churned out album after album — more than a dozen in fact — through the years, he refined his art to be more subtle.
His newest album, Are You Serious, is his first full-length album since getting married and having a baby. This change in Bird evokes a tenderness throughout the album. Although this softness of his is infamous, whistles and clashes reverberate throughout the album and give listeners an interesting new and ghostly feel.
This album isn’t strictly soft, in parts, it’s even peppy. Are You Serious has many layers. From “Puma” being a thunderous ballad to a mirroring of Paul Simon on “The New St. Jude,” Bird shows versatility. The album opens with “Capsized,” a clanging, boisterous song that is almost groovy in its reverbs. It then transitions to “Roma Fade,” which details love at first sight with his wife, once again showcasing how much he has changed with this album release.
In a conversation with NPR, Andrew Bird discussed how his marriage has impacted his work saying, “You’re sitting in the same room with them as you’re writing, and when you’re sitting on the couch and you know it’s not going to last, you might … have to … encrypt things,” he says. “When you don’t have to do that anymore, it might change your writing.” As previously mentioned, committed love has definitely changed Bird’s music.
“Left Hand Kisses,” which features Fiona Apple, is a reflective piece that discusses the vulnerability of love. Bird admits this is a literal whisky-soaked serenade, and it’s yet another example of his marriage changing the way he writes — in my opinion, for the better.
The 43 minute album feels like looking into someone else’s life or overhearing someone sing in the shower. It’s intimate. “New Saint Jude” and “Truth Lies Low” have the same energy, one where we can see Bird’s emotions so clear it feels like real-time. A classically-trained musician, Bird allows joy to overtake him with a beautifully refined technique that seems like everything but classic.
This album, as previous albums have been for the artist, is complimented by overwhelming use of instrumentals. From a western-esque tinge in “Capsized” to more subtle, living instrumentals in “Chemical Switches,” the thoughtful lyrics that Bird writes are married perfectly with an expert use of sound.
The album’s final words on “Bellevue” are “I think I found someone.” Whether that be his wife or himself, Are You Serious is made better for it.