Monday, 7 November 2011
Birdy - Birdy
This is interesting for so many reasons: another female vocal at a time of such sweet saturation [Feist, Camille, Florence Welch, Phoebe Killdeer to name a few]; appearing first on youtube and within the contemporary public infatuation for promo-rich, X-Factoresque ratification - attained with bells on at 7 million clicks for her version of Bon Iver's Skinny Love, and aged only 15, her youth adds to the overall mystique and excitement that announces this new artist and release.
Jasmine Van den Bogaerde [aka Birdy and already packaged according to a requisite twee appellation] certainly possesses a powerful, pure voice. The 14 tracks on this debut album do occasionally contain over-dubs and layerings, but generally the production - from a stellar cast of participants, by all accounts - foregrounds the vocal. I feel my age [oh in so many ways....] when of these 14 tracks I really only know two well: Fleet Foxes' White Winter Hymnal - from a band who themselves timewarp sounds from the 70s - and James Taylor's Fire and Water, which suggests Birdy has been dipping into the grandparents' vinyl. Or she's taken some astute advice on appealing to the genuinely mass market. I wasn't aware of the 7 million youtube audience appeal and accolade until reading recent and overall most favourable reviews, especially from the quality newspapers who can articulate with sharp tongues or approving sagacity, the latter reigning at the moment. Most confirm a promising start and future, and on my first tentative listen I would agree.
Skinny Love definitely reveals a strong and emotive vocal. People Help The People also places the vocal up front and knowing, though I wouldn't characterise it as distinctive which is a clear nitpick within the obvious excellence - but that links back to the reality of needing to establish an identity within a market of extremely strong female voices. Especially when the youth vote wanes. Terrible Love is a song that almost gets lost within the over-production of strings accompaniment, but the singing does hold its own which says much for Birdy's incipient vocal presence. A good aural test for me is the Taylor version. It's sound enough and what stands out - as it seemingly should - is that clear, confident vocal, and that is where the current and only 'problem' exists: that this track is as solid, but not necessarily different and distinctive from all the other strong tracks. Again, as many reviewers have already noted, self-penned Without a Word reveals enough promise for the future to make this release exciting and significant.