Andrew Bird, singer-songwriter and mad scientist, has released an advance stream of his 2016 album, Are You Serious, set to be officially released on April 1st. Listen to the full LP stream above courtesy of Spotify.
Known for melding cryptic lyrics with intricate melodies guided by his violin, Bird has a way of creating music where process is just as important as content. With his 2016 album, Are You Serious, his first new original material with vocals since 2012's Break It Yourself, he takes a slightly different approach. While the album is still laden with polyphonies of sound that Bird does best, this album is much more personal and telling of the circumstances under which it was written.
Are You Serious has been highly anticipated, with Bird releasing the tracks "Capsized," "Roma Fade," and the lovely collaborative number "Left Handed Kisses" featuring Fiona Apple. "Capsized" plays like a classic Bird tune with its funky, head-bob worthy melody and lyrics for your interpretation, while "Left Handed Kisses" and especially "Roma Fade" are more personal.
This personal side of Bird that we see throughout this album comes as a result of his marriage and the birth of his son. In an interview with Bob Boilen of NPR, Bird commented:
This one's different on many levels. Not just musically but lyrically, and I'm actually kind of nervous about it for the first time. I know things are gonna come up through the songs that are kinda heavy and personal and usually in the past I would encrypt those things so I would be relatively safe and those around me would be safe. And that's not so much the case this time.
This sentiment can definitely be heard in "Roma Fade," where he describes the initial encounters with his wife, watching her in a way that could be described as creepy. While he sings the song in first person and not his usual third, the song is still textbook Bird. He analyzes their interaction and shared stares, complimenting the intense back and forth with a driving melody descriptive of the uncomfortable aspects of first realizing an attraction for someone. The story is told as much by the quick pulsing sound as by the lyrics.
Although Are You Serious has moments of true insight into the life of Bird, he still harkens back to his ingenious ways of creating descriptive and visceral song stories. In tracks like "Puma" and "Chemical Switches" he breaks people down to their molecules. "Puma" playfully describes a woman as "radioactive" while in a hospital to a tango-like melody, while "Chemical Switches" speaks of falling in love as a chemical reaction. Both tracks are so telling of how scientifically Bird sees the world and his unique point of view.
Throughout the album we are met with Bird's masterful ability to layer sound and create engrossing melodies that seem effortless. Songs like "Saints Preservus" and "The New Saint Jude" have complex melodies and instrumentation that we've come to expect from Andrew Bird tracks. With his plucking violin, meticulously placed whistling, and warm harmonies, "Saints Preservus" is reminiscent of late Beatles tunes. "The New Saint Jude" comes off as a love-child between Paul Simon and The Shins, full of winding melody changes and delightful guitar and violin picking that sounds like it's being played on an island vacation as the song ends.
Following these two easy-going tracks, Bird rounds out Are You Serious with "Valleys Of The Young" and "Bellevue." Opening "Valleys Of The Young" with the line, "Do you need a reason we should commit treason and bring into this world a son and leave the valleys of the young?" Bird describes how life changes when you start a family and how that transition has affected him. This song in particular represents the personal approach Bird took with this album and the reasons for it. He ends the record with "Bellevue," a short, but uplifting track describing how he has found someone to "guide my lonely ships onto the shallow." These tracks reflect the comfort he has gained with his wife and child and how he feels he is better for it.
Lucky for us, Bird decided to embrace the changes in his life and let us in with this album.
Are You Serious is set to be released April 1, 2016. You can purchase the album on Amazon.
For Andrew Bird's latest music, news, and tour dates, check out his Zumic artist page.
Also check out the unboxing of the Are You Serious Deluxe Box Set, which includes a 10" record called Are We Not Burning? The Devolution of Capsized that includes five additional tracks: