Like most everything else in life, folk singers come in cycles, riding whichever traditions and trends suit the moment. Do you need a new Paul Simon? Check out Robby Hecht. Would you want a contemporary Carole King? Listen to Sara Bareilles. Might you love a modern-day Ani DiFranco? Pick up Jade Bird. (Now, yes, there’s absolutely an argument to be made that Wallis Bird carries at least part of DiFranco’s torch, but it’s also certain that anyone who sees Jade Bird perform will know that she, too, is part of Ani’s lineage.)
So, yeah… Jade Bird. Right off the top of her spunky debut album, Ruins, Bird earns the early-day Ani comparisons. She doesn’t throw as many songwriting conventions to the wind as DiFranco does, but she certainly defenestrates a few. Bird also has the same fun, feisty spirit that’s willing to call bullshit wherever and whenever she deems it appropriate, as on the title track or the infectiously charming “Lottery,” which has topped 10 million streams on Spotify in the months since it was released as a teaser for the album.
It’s no wonder why so many have tuned into it, as it’s everything you want in a great song — the sass is strong, the hook is undeniable, and the production is understated. The only problem is that it clocks in right around two-and-a-half minutes — all 12 of Ruins songs only add up to 36 minutes — and that’s not nearly enough. (Hmmm… likely some of those stream counts are due to folks listening on loop!)
But there’s awfully much more to Ruins than that one track. “I Get No Joy” is just as full of spit and vinegar, with its rapid-fire lyrics and rock-out groove. “Side Effects” is similarly piquant and peppery as it chugs fiercely, joyfully along. “Uh Huh” uses its own two-and-a-half minutes to bring all the salt and pour it right on in.
Bird has a tender side, too, of course. She lets it slip on “17,” “If I Die,” and “Does Anybody Know” which, to keep the comparisons going, is reminiscent in tone and theme to DiFranco’s “Hell Yeah.” Those are wonderful moments on the record, stripping away all the dross to let the song and singer sail smoothly on unencumbered.
As with Ani, though, Bird’s bread-and-butter tracks are, no doubt, the previously mentioned more-spirited numbers, as well as “Love Has All Been Done Before” and “Going Gone,” because she mines that territory so very, very well. So, yeah… Jade Bird.