Andrew Bird has a very unique sound. I love whenever I hear a song and can say something like “that sounds like Andrew Bird,” or any other artist that it may sound like. A friend of mine from back home with whom I was in a band with made whistling and loop pedals his main thing, probably most inspired by Bird’s “Tenuousness.” Though he doesn’t make music that I could say “that sounds like Andrew Bird” to, Andrew Bird has had a big influence on him, mostly from Bird’s record Break It Yourself. It’s my favorite record of his as well, and the most cohesive sounding record I think he’s put out where I’ve enjoyed every song and its flow to the next. Since then, he’s made an eight track companion album to Break It Yourself called Hands of Glory, an album of The Handsome Family covers, and a seven track record he recorded in a cave called Echolations: Canyon. So, I consider Are You Serious to be the first true studio record since 2012’s fantastic Break It Yourself.
Known for his violin plucking and loop pedal compositions, Are You Serious begins with guitar and drums on “Capsized” and the single “Roma Fade,” which is the most in your face an Andrew Bird track has ever been. I feel like I’m so used to thinking of Andrew Bird as someone I watch perform a song on guitar at a small party, but this record hits my headphones like an Alabama Shakes record where it’s just happening right now and it’s in your face about it. It’s still very much Andrew Bird, but the mixing and panning of the record gives off that Alabama Shakes style, which is probably due mostly in part to Blake Mills, who also produced Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color last year. As Stacey Anderson of Pitchfork described it, “it’s no ear-shredder by any means, but next to the tranquility of Bird’s most recent fare, it’s My Bloody Valentine.” Nonetheless a sonic change, I can still hear that Andrew Bird sound, and I think it fits extremely well mixed in with his usual style on tracks like “Truth Lies Low” and “Chemical Switches”.
Most of the greatness contextually with this record stems from Are You Serious being the first record since getting married and becoming a father. I don’t know why, maybe having a child just puts things in a new perspective, but my favorite record of all time was made after the artist became a parent, and I’m sure a lot more of my favorite records are as well. But Are You Serious is a very warm sounding record and my only complaint comes from the Fiona Apple inclusion, and not because of her, just because I think her vocals take away from Andrew Bird’s sound. It really sounds like he’s compromising sonically, throwing that section of the record out of place. Other than that, I’d throw Are You Serious right up there with Break It Yourself.
Andrew Bird albums are a lot like Wes Anderson movies, where there’s something kind of quirky or odd to them but it’s still got a groove that you walk out with feeling kind of quirky and odd yourself, like you understood and identified with the characters no matter how outrageous or awkward they might have been. Desplat’s score to Moonrise Kingdom always seemed like it had some Andrew Bird influence in it. But regardless, that unique Andrew Bird sound is always something that I can get behind, especially when you can tell he’s really hitting it in stride.