Review Summary: The anti-SadIndieChick
Something amazing happened in the last few years. Incredibly talented women started to surface all throughout the indie-pop music scene: Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Haley Heynderickx, Soccer Mommy, Madeline Kenney, Molly Burch, Tomberlin…the list goes on for miles. I got caught up in it about as much as anyone, and for good reason. But as I rode the wave of euphoria, sinking into Bridgers’ sweet vocal harmonies and listening in awe at the subtle instrumental complexity of Heynderickx’s I Need To Start a Garden
, I started to find myself getting a little annoyed at the endless line of acoustic-guitar wielding women lining up behind them, ready-made to capitalize on the success of the trend. By the time 2018 ended, it seemed that all you needed was a guitar and depressing mannerisms, and maybe someone willing to throw a few strings into the background on your behalf, in order to be hailed by certain hyperbolic publications as “brave” and part of the ever-furthering of women’s rights. While this may be true of a select few artists, it does not apply to everyone – independent or label-backed - who saw the acclaim these women were receiving and salivated at the thought of how mind-numbingly easy
it would be to throw their hat into the ring and earn a piece of that pie. I called it the “Sad Indie Chick Movement.”
Thank god for artists like Jade Bird, who just go and do their own thing. I’m not saying she’s one of a kind, but her no-fucks-given attitude is exactly the reprieve I needed from the endless train of depressing acoustic pop. ‘Uh Huh’ is what first hooked me, Bird’s vocals just rough-around-the-edges enough to qualify as interesting – not unlike the way that Kristian Mattson burst onto the male side of the indie-folk coin earlier in the decade – yet with enough force behind those pipes to drive home the highest of highs and lowest of lows. There’s not a twisted little sarcastic quip that she’s not capable of delivering with decisiveness and power. She’s also able to peel back the layers and sing those softer, more emotionally poignant moments – like the touching ‘If I Die’, where she pleads, “If I die, don't put me in stars / I'm never that far away from you.” Her versatility reminds me of some of the great female rock icons of 70s classic rock, and at the very least there’s a vintage 90s feel – Bird herself cited rock
as her primary influence over other genres that were more popular during her teenage years, such as emo and pop-punk. It’s refreshing because that shows in her product, and this eponymous debut is very much a rock record more than any kind of artsy or experimentally-driven pop. She’s part of a whole different scene than most of the women earning acclaim right now, and that scene is a lot smaller and meeker – women in rock
. I know enough by now to never say an artist is going to revive rock n’ roll, but Bird has the multifaceted skill set to master pretty much any approach she decides to take.
With regards to Jade Bird
, it’s a very digestible and fun debut LP. The record for the most part stays upbeat, her rural folksy wails providing the bread and butter for the majority of the choruses while the instrumental backing remains rooted in paced acoustic guitars and raw drumming that gives the experience a live feel. There’s no denying that the primary attraction here is Bird’s unique voice, which may feel like it’s made for rock but is capable of singing any style – whether it’s the frantic and confident ‘Uh Huh’ or a more subdued number like ‘17.’ The record offers listeners just about every hue in the tempo spectrum, shaking things up with ease thanks to Jade’s nimble range. Fans of vocal-centric pop rock will immediately identify with Jade Bird
, a piece that provides infectious choruses that are set to real, tangible instruments – not just varying shades of ambience. It’s an earthy, mainstream record for listeners who want a boots on the ground
moment after floating around inside all of the hazy, ethereal art-pop of the last several years. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a welcome change.