Are You Serious

Across 13 albums, songwriter Andrew Bird has developed a sound altogether his own using now-familiar signature elements—pitch-perfect whistling, delicately layered string instrumentation, flashes of violin virtuosity and almost-too-clever lyricism—and pretty much stuck with it. One might wonder whether the schtick will wear thin. Based on Bird’s new record, Are You Serious, the answer is: not yet. It helps that Bird is weird, that his folk and chamber-pop songs feel like they couldn’t be written by anyone else. Also, from the start, the ear detects that Are You Serious has a highly produced sheen atypical of Bird’s catalogue. Whereas previous Bird albums have sounded haphazard, like they were recorded midconception, the melodies here seem as if they were cut out with an X-Acto knife. (See the sparse, bluesy and finger-snapping lead single, “Capsized.”) Further highlights include “Roma Fade” and its driving kick-drum, melodic swells and tip-toeing pizzicato violin, and “The New Saint Jude,” which sounds like Bird’s lost guest feature on Paul Simon’s Graceland.