Guitar music has undoubtedly become stale in the last few decades. For every ground-breaker like The 1975, there are a million and one indie outfits trying to be the next big thing, harping on about the same old themes with the same old jangly chords and limp energy. The artists worth talking about are the people doubling down on the vulnerability and emotion that makes music the spine-chilling experience it should be; people like Jade Bird. At only 21, she’s crafted a raw and eclectic debut album which channels her Americana and folk influences into an exciting new package. Jade Bird is an appropriately self-titled record, as the singer-songwriter unleashes her stunning voice to powerful effect. It’s unpretentious, it’s raucous, and it’s what the British guitar music scene desperately needed.
The album opens with ‘Ruins’, a gentle introduction to Bird’s unmistakable voice, at once softly vulnerable and sharply emotive. Her twang is instantly reminiscent of Americana titans like Bob Dylan. The song slowly evolves to a musical climax which sets the tone for the album – one of ebbs and flows, both sonically and emotionally. Lead single ‘Lottery’ follows, and it’s easy to see why this has been Bird’s biggest hit in America; the anthemic chorus and bittersweet lyrics are captivating.
Her twang is instantly reminiscent of Americana titans like Bob Dylan
‘I Get No Joy’ begins with an authoritative drum beat that leads into another killer hook that showcases Bird’s stunning vocal dexterity. She belts out stunning notes on the line ‘I get no joy’, and the rapped vocals that follow instantly remind you that despite her influences from across the pond, Bird is unavoidably British. ‘Side Effects’ gives the full band their first real chance to shine. There’s a groovy bassline in the chorus, simple but joyous drum work, and an excellent bridge which melds guitar riffs and Bird’s rising melodies.
Piano takes centre stage for ‘My Motto’, an uplifting ballad about determination that was recorded in one take and is all the better for it. The honestly of Bird’s messages shines through, with the song building to an empowering crescendo backed by strings. The album then dovetails into ‘Does Anybody Know’, a guitar-led tearjerker that is full of melancholy atmosphere. When synth lines creep into the bridge, it’s a chillingly beautiful experience, that’s unfortunately deflated by the addition of drums in the final chorus.
New guitar lines appear in each new section of the song, creating an interesting and endlessly replayable anthem
The record shifts jarringly from Bird’s most vulnerable moment to ‘Uh Huh’, a riotous song laced with attitude and venom. The singer’s tongue-in-cheek anger is tangible as she mocks an ex-boyfriend, backed by powerful instrumentation. Disappointingly, the energy drops into ‘Good At It’, a perfectly enjoyable but forgettable ditty about the sexual prowess of a love rival. ‘17’ is another impressive showcase of Bird’s vulnerability, with piano and strings combining to create a moving and intimate song.
Once again the album catapults you from a low to a high, with the jaunty verses and biting choruses of ‘Love Has All Been Done Before’. New guitar lines appear in each new section of the song, creating an interesting and endlessly replayable anthem. ‘Going Gone’ is a sassy takedown of a childish boyfriend, and the counting in the chorus meaning its almost an Americana version of Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’. It’s the closer for Bird’s live set, and it seems odd that the album too doesn’t end on this spirited note. Instead, it closes with ‘If I Die’, the most lyrically interesting and moving song present. Bird contemplates how she wants to be remembered after death, and while it’s touching, it’s a very melancholy note for such a young artist to end her first album on.
The best moments come from the snarling highs and heart-breaking lows which show off the singer’s emotional lyrics and voice
The range on display in this debut record is incredible, particularly when considering Bird wrote and co-produced every song. The best moments come from the snarling highs and heart-breaking lows which show off the singer’s emotional lyrics and voice – the mid-tempo songs feel a little safe and full of unreached potential. The textures in each song are impressive, with new instruments being organically built into each soundscape to build the energy. While there’s definitely some whiplash for the listener as the album bounces from low to high and back again, it’s a testament to the range of feeling which Bird’s music can evoke. Jade Bird is an honest album full of energy, built around a stunningly powerful voice which should cut through all the white noise in guitar music to make Jade Bird a star.