Andrew Bird "Are You Serious"

Have you ever wondered how introverts deal with becoming successful musicians, particularly those who write their own lyrics? Andrew Bird has handled this juxtaposition by writing coded lyrics that intertwine with emotive music. Are You Serious (no punctuation by artist choice) is Bird’s most intimate album, not that he’s spelling out his most personal musings. Listeners still need to dig, just not as deep.

In the past five years Bird’s life has transformed. He married classical dancer and designer Katherine Tsina, fathered a son, moved west to Los Angeles, and dealt with his wife’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. These life experiences impacted his approach to writing, creating if not a confessional writer, a more forthcoming, relatable artist. Even when taking on dark themes Bird imbues the music with levity and warmth, reflecting the duality of human nature. On the track “Capsized,” he captures how the residue of a past relationship’s collapse effecta a current happy situation. It’s a slyly humorous take on human equivocation. “Puma” details the emotional impact of dealing with radiation treatment. The lyrics bounce above a perky bed of plucked violins.

Bird is a brainy writer who expresses his world view in eclectic metaphors and twisting alleys of lyrical illusions. He pokes fun at his erudite reputation on the album’s title track singing “used to be so willfully obtuse, or is the word abstruse?/Semantics like a noose, get out your dictionaries.” Even when I don’t understand what he’s referring to I find myself drawn in by the emotion of his voice, whistling, and thoughtfully arranged music. The production is precise with every element deliberately placed, making for a headphone experience.

Bird invites a small but stellar group of musicians into the recording process including multi-talented songwriter/singer/producer Blake Mills who toured with Fiona Apple. Perhaps it’s that connection that brings Apple to sing the duet “Left Handed Kisses” with Bird.  It’s a sparse witty slightly satirical take on romance.

Bird’s sense of humor and lightness has never been more apparent than on Are You Serious, which feels like an aptly tongue in cheek title.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)