Sunday, May 09, 2021

Birdy triumphantly returns with new album ‘Young Heart’, giving us the EXACT vibes we need right now

It’s hard to believe that since this January gone, it has been ten years since Birdy, real name Jasmine van den Boegarde, enchanted the world with her unforgettable cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ at the young age of 14, then later releasing her self-entitled debut album in November 2011, thus installing herself as a household name in British music. 

Many forget what an impressive feat this was for her, especially given the explosion of talented newcomers that broke through in that particular year. Since then, we’ve had the privilege of seeing Birdy evolve both musically and personally through a string of acclaimed albums and hit collaboration singles in the last decade.  

Some may question why we haven’t heard as much as a tweet from Birdy until last year, who of course like many other artists, was inspired to lift our moods and take our minds off the bleak realities of the global pandemic, delighting us with a succession of singles and a Piano Sketches EP, which also included a welcome reprisal of her 2011 hit cover of Cherry Ghost’s ‘People Help The People’. The truth is that Birdy got herself a well-deserved break and goodness knows what a whirlwind the last decade has been for her, something which she has talked openly about in several interviews. But on hearing her newest album in 5 years, it seems that the respite has paid off as ‘Young Heart’  

demonstrates how her love for music has been rejuvenated once again.  


When it comes to fourth albums, it is typical that many others might see it as a license to take the more unprecedented routes, shall we say, in musical creativity. But on this occasion, Birdy has decided gift not only her fans, but also to treat herself, to this luxurious chocolate box that perfectly encapsulates the musical roots she began with all those years ago, the great success from her previous two albums, and the exciting future trajectory she is taking into the next decade. Paired with some of her most mature and heart-breaking lyrical content so far, my word, what a journey this album takes you on.  


‘Young Heart’ opens with ‘The Witching Hour – Intro’, a simply divine piano piece that immediately sets out Birdy’s agenda for this LP, which given from the sound continuity of birds, is that this is going to be geared as an album experience; making a stark contrast to what Birdy sampled with her last album, ‘Beautiful Lies’ (2016). It continues on with the true opening track, ‘Voyager’, where we get our first taste of this new and mature direction, something which Atlantic Records talks about in their latest press release for Birdy, stating that this song is “about the knowledge and pain that you need to end a relationship, but the no-man’s land where your partner doesn’t know yet”. Birdy does so well to describe these feelings, the pain is evident, and yet there is the resilience and conviction to set things right. If the last album was intended to evoke the imagery of a happily-ever-after fairy-tale, then this one is more akin to the gritty and bubble-bursting realities of the Brothers Grimm, veiled with a warm and welcoming glow, much like the Big Bad Wolf masquerading as Granny. 


The emotional flood truly bursts the river banks when we venture into the next few songs, a battle between light and dark thoughts begin to erupt. With the first single from the album, ‘Loneliness’, Birdy samples some heavy and brutal conversations such as “Your hold has kept my heart in chains / For so long I’ve waited for it to break”, to themes of distance in ‘The Other Side’, trying her best to stay true to her word but still finding it irresistible to show some signs of affection. Whereas with tracks such as ‘Surrender’ and ‘Nobody Knows Me Like You Do’, we hear of private confessions and feelings of regret even when she is trying so hard to sever that deep connection.  


But above all else, the pinnacle track on this album for me is, by a country mile, ‘Second Hand News’, the second single to be released from this album. It surmises the theme of trying to win back her significant other even if it’s against her initial convictions and better judgment, desperation to reclaim the stability she once had despite unwelcome interventions, and the fear of everything collapsing on her from all sides. You can hear the explosion of passion, fire, and desire to do right in Birdy’s voice here; and needless to say, it blows everyone away. It’s an instant classic as far as I’m concerned, and I shall be very disappointed if it doesn’t receive the accolade it deserves. 


We also get our first glimpse of what the future holds for Birdy in ‘Deepest Lonely’, which samples some exciting things that we haven’t heard from her before, it is perhaps one of the more intriguing tracks here from a musical standpoint. The drums and additional percussive elements play an integral part to this song, which themselves become almost an equal part to the main melody as if it’s a living thing itself. This may be something that we might see more of going forward. 


By the time we get to ‘Celestial Dancers’, yet another masterful track, ‘New Moon’ and the title track ‘Young Heart’, we finally hear of the clarity Birdy finds, how she still will have affection for the significant other but can finally know the peace in her own mind now that the wrongs have been righted. ‘Young Heart’ almost cinematically delivers the final summary of this relationship and does this through demonstrating her musical evolution from beginning to end. It is a fitting finale that paves the way to new pastures. 


This new album is a bold and musically positive statement by Birdy. An album with a production quality so good that you don’t even notice its clever and creative subtleties. Amidst the turbulence of this storied relationship, we, on the other hand, find a sense of calm and refuge in her words, music and the piece of her soul that she is so generously willing to share with us. I, for one, am most grateful to her for this. 

‘Young Heart’ marks a definitive new era in her musical career and one that all persons will find the utmost privilege in experiencing. 


Mikey McCusker 


Image: Courtesy of Atlantic Records


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