When Jade Bird began to garner attention back in 2017, she was quickly categorised as a country-folk singer; many of the Northumberland-born star’s songs were acoustic guitar ballads against Americana-tinged vocals – her first EP was aptly named ‘Something American’. But despite Bird embracing her Southern influences, she wants people to know there’s more to her as a musician. “I always felt like people were really trying to box me into a genre and a style,” she told NME in her recent digital cover story.
It’s ironic, then, that Bird found the new alt-rock sound that courses through her second album, ‘Different Kinds Of Light’, in Nashville, America’s home of country music. Now settled in Austin, and having performed onstage with American songwriting legends such as Sheryl Crow and Brandi Carlile, Bird recorded much of the album in Nashville’s famed RCA Studios alongside veteran producer Dave Cobb. The setting’s cultural aura proved to be the artist’s muse – the vessel for her to channel a more grown-up, well-travelled Jade Bird.
This album showcases the musician at her vocal and poetic best, placing dark themes against buoyant melodies, a trick that crops up in the hopeful hooks of ‘Headstart’ and the lovesick, harmonic licks of ‘Prototype’. Bird has explained that in broadly exploring falling in love and escaping the past, she’s roped in “fictional characters” who exist only in her “mind, memory and imagination”.
Much of the record centres around an idle or absent love interest (as ‘Rely On’ and ‘Houdini’), while feminist sentiments permeate the brisk, bluesy ‘I’m Getting Lost’ and the raucous ‘Candidate’. Bird’s wide pool of musical influences can be heard on the likes of ‘Now Is The Time’, where light guitar riffs ring against snappy Bob Dylan-style lyricism, paired with soulful Bee Gees flair: “If I had a penny for all your potential / I’d be left drowning in my mouthful of metal.” The scratchy Britpop strings of sparring partners Oasis and Blur creep into ‘1994’, while the springy rhythm and hard snares of ‘Honeymoon’ call back to Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’.
‘Different Kinds of Light’ could be Bird’s Southern road trip soundtrack – on long, dusty paths of self-reflection, she’s found lessons in love and growth. Bird roars through the album’s 15 tracks, seamlessly transitioning to thoughtful downtempo moments. Broadening her sound to keep up with her perspective, she’s stayed true to her roots while knocking down the genre walls she was once placed within.
Release date: August 16
Record label: Glassnote