An assured debut from a force to be reckoned with...

Once the circle of listening to Jade Bird has kicked off, it is hard to stop. Jade Bird’s debut album documents an emotional journey of pain and joy delivered with an immensely uplifting energy. Still only in her early twenties, her young age is no barrier to demonstrating an understanding of some of the complexities in life, and Bird shows her ability to channel a range of emotions with precision and a piercing intensity. She has an aptitude for communicating feelings such as sadness and heartbreak, but there is also an observational quality attached to her songs.

Her musical influences include Americana, folk, indie and alt-rock, and she creates a rich, raw and punchy style oozing charisma and depth of character. The majority of her tracks are delivered in a full-register voice echoing the likes of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Alanis Morrisette and Janis Joplin, but the way Bird approaches her influences, and her subsequent digestion of them, shows autonomy, intelligence and innovation. She is not a copy-cat, and this is no doubt a current and contemporary take on a writing tradition and some iconic female voices.

In fact, it is a forceful force to be reckoned with. The opening track ‘Ruins’ sets the scene of her passionate journey with its tone and pace and all songs are delivered with a seemingly overarching fearlessness. For example, on songs such as ‘I Get No Joy’ and ‘Going Gone’ she encourages openness and strength in the face of heartbreak, sadness and pain. The fierce energy of ‘My Motto’ tackles the idea that sometimes, you have to give up the painful cycle of trying to fix a relationship in order to move on in life.

The album delivers consistency in theme and sound, and this makes highlights-picking more challenging, but the infectious and angry vibrancy of ‘Uh Huh’, a song carried by the sound of a rich steel guitar and Bird’s more shouty vocals on ‘Love Has All Been Done Before’ are clear contenders. The piano-led ‘If I Die’ surprises with its quiet but gradual build-up and the interjection of emotional outbursts.

There are no two ways about it, it is a tremendous debut and the quality is beyond question. But when it comes to looking at the possibility of this being what’s to pave the way for Jade Bird’s breakthrough on Angle-American ground, it is tempting to view the risk of her being seen as too American for British audiences, and the reverse; too British for the Americans.

But it is best to wait and see how things pan out, and observe rather than speculate, just like Bird does so well, and hopefully, it will all kick off in a big way for her.

8/10

Words: Susan Hansen

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