Jade Bird is a 21-year-old London-spawned singer-songwriter with a voice that can shift from soft sweetness to blow-your-hair-back belting in the course of two syllables. It’s a talent uses strategically in her songwriting: Many songs on this, her debut full-length, find their payoff with a sudden blast of vocal volume that evokes slapstick scenes of windows shattering and people falling over backward in their chairs.
Not surprisingly, that voice is the centerpiece of this coming-of-age singer-songwriter album — Bird has toured or will tour with Hozier, Father John Misty, Brandi Carlile and First Aid Kit, and together those artists provide a sort of locus point for her sound. It’s pop-folky and acoustic-based but big when it needs to be, with often-sassy lyrics largely about love and self-discovery.
It’s obviously the work of a young artist (she wrote all the songs), yet there’s a rare assuredness to it; producers Simon Felice and David Baron have done a solid job of framing the songs and her voice while resisting the temptation to go overboard. Some songs, like “My Motto,” and the opening “Ruins,” have string arrangements and a full band; some are rocked up; others are stripped down primarily to just piano or acoustic guitar, as if putting her vocal center stage with a single bright spotlight.
In the end, it all comes down to That Voice — a remarkably versatile instrument, it can be quiet, reserved and crystal clear on the ballads, and shred on the rockers, adding touch of sandpaper that suits the hard-strumming, pissed-off, to-hell-with-your-girlfriend or to-hell-with-my-boyfriend rockers. But what’s equally remarkable about this album, for anyone who’s been following her since she signed with Glassnote around four years ago, is how far she’s come — we look forward to seeing what the next four years will bring.