Andrew Bird has released his new album, Are You Serious. Born out of the trying times during his wife's illness mixed with raising a young child, the lyrics of this album came to fruition on a getaway to the family farm in his home state of Illinois. This album takes his poetry and compositional prowess to new levels. The lyrics are matter-of-fact, highlighting precise word choice rather than lavish wordplay and extravagance. If anything, the extravagance comes into play in the compositions. Yet, a taut thread holds every note and rhythm in place. He's even stated that he prefers genres with interlocked bass and drums to the standard singer-songwriter genre.

Honestly, it is difficult not to do a track by track breakdown of this album. But due to length and my editor's and the readers' sanity (each song could have its own essay written on it) I'll try to reign myself in.

The album kicks off with 'Capsized'. The interplay of a grooving bass line, Bird's baritone croon, and fuzzed out guitar riffs, wrestle around. The precise drumming keeps everything in line. There are flourishes of strings that have been put through some alien filter. It is modern while still paying homage to '60s soul. It isn't until the next song, 'Roma Fade' that you are even sure this is an Andrew Bird album. Plucked violin strings are accompanied by his signature whistling and you are reminded just how versatile of an artist Andrew Bird is.

Then you have a song like 'Truth Lies Low' which has a bit of a Radiohead vibe to it. It begins with distorted, dissonant guitar chords plucked in a syncopated rhythm with sparse drums underneath. A very minimalist vibe. Bird sings in the upper portions of his range. It blooms at the chorus and pulls back at the start of the next verse. There's flourishes that have filters giving a watery, babbling brook feel. And with lines like, "You do the walk of shame/ from the comfort of your home" and "You empty all your blame/ from your guilty bones" it's difficult to imagine Thom Yorke not kicking himself for not writing these lyrics first.

'Chemical Switches' is the aesthetic he may be best known for. It's just him and an acoustic guitar. It is his most vulnerable song on the album. The finger picking of the guitar makes it so no other instrument is needed; he finds a way to fill the space, without it sounding like he is at open mic night on the outskirts of Portland. But it is his lyrics that paint the stark reality of what his family was going through when this album was born. "Will your saline waters bring you back to me?/ Oh, the wait, is bringing me to my knees." "Chemical switches thrown in the dark./ All it takes is a spark to begin." His voice breaks your heart. It would have been too easy to make this some over-the-top ballad reaching for notes and adding fancy trills to the ends of phrases. Instead, he never really sings above a mezzo-forte. In fact, he pulls back at the end of most of his phrases making you lean in, yearning for more.

To keep with my earlier promise, here are some quick highlights of other can't miss songs off the album. 'Left Handed Kisses' is a duet with Fiona Apple. Her raspy and almost brash voice gives a swagger to the song. 'The New St. Jude' is a song that easily could have been out of place but somehow flows with the rest of the record. Let's just say it's a fresh island breeze that will have Vampire Weekend fanning themselves. And 'Valleys of the Young' speaks of brunches, getting stoned under trees, and the narrator double checking their partner wants to add an addition to the family.

What sets this record apart from others is its ability to be dynamic in composition and concise in lyrics. Everything is purposeful. That is a rare quality when it comes to modern music. In an age where the studio lets you make sounds and layer like never before, artists often mistake abundance for quality. And in turn, that is what makes Are You Serious so compelling. Every word, note, and moment of silence is well thought out. In a recent Q&A I had the privilege of doing with Andrew Bird for the 405, he stated that being a husband and father has affected his approach to writing music. "[It] Makes me less patient with semantics. I just want to get to the heart of the matter." On the title track, he sings, "Semantics like a noose,/ get out your dictionaries" and "I'm gonna cut to the quick". On this album, he accomplishes cutting to the meat of it all.

It is incredible how pain and trying times can be forged into something beautiful and free. It is commonplace for musicians to sing about how sad they are. And while those words and music have a time and place, it takes something more to transform something new out of the macabre. On, Are You Serious, Andrew Bird turns a new leaf artistically. There is no doubt this album will draw in new fans who have never heard of him before. It's accessible, creative, and honest- everything art wishes it could be.