Andrew Bird’s 13th studio album, “Are You Serious,” brings back Bird’s distinctive harmonies, lush instrumentation and brilliant lyrics to create a tapestry of Americana sounds flush with a touch of whimsy. Since the early 2000s, Bird has brought a completely unique sensibility to Americana, bringing together complex harmonies and radical song progressions while working within a classic bluegrass or folk soundscape. His previous two albums, “Break It Yourself” and “Pulaski At Night” both feature tracks with country and folk lyrics and chord progressions, layered over complex harp and violin melodies. “Are You Serious” finds Bird back on common ground with this style, although with a few key differences.
The first track, “Capsized,” begins with a distorted cello melody that quickly gives way to heavy boom-bap drums front and center. Bird’s vocals on this track are brilliant, with him crooning, “When you wake up / Not fallen and someone is by your side,” conveying a general sense of confusion about his close relationship with another (in this context, his wife).
Perhaps my favorite song on this album is a duet featuring Fiona Apple titled, “Left Handed Kisses.” Structurally, this song is a classic country ballad — of course, layered with jawdroppingly beautiful harmonies in Bird’s style — and finds Bird and Apple singing between the two, with Bird singing, “I don’t believe everything happens for a reason” and Apple replying, “To us romantics, that amounts to high treason.”
While Bird is known for his unique approach to harmony, probably the strongest element on this album is surprisingly, the song lyrics. The lyrics are whimsical, sardonic and slightly self-referential. While “Break It Yourself” and “Pulaski At Night” contained heartfelt, anguished ballads, the songs on this album are less serious, carrying the tone that the instrumentals create.
Never before, have I given a perfect score to any album I have reviewed, and I have reviewed quite a few. With that said, I genuinely believe this is a perfect album. The album is the perfect length, and the songs are each highly distinctive while still being recognizably related within the context of the album. The lyricism is coy and playful, the vocals incredible, the harmonies absolutely stunning. All of this comes together to weave a gorgeous tapestry of irreverent folk music.
Rating: 5/5 Stars