Last Friday morning, I clicked play on Different Kinds of Light, Jade Bird’s sophomore set, not once, not twice, but three and then four times, exploring its many facets with each new pass, only to have the revelry interrupted by the news of Nanci Griffith’s passing. The shock and disbelief soon turned to grief, as one might suspect, but after a bleak week of contemplating mortality I sought relief via the new Summer Songs EP from Karen Jonas, which I plan to spotlight tomorrow, and indulged in much #5albums08 fun – platters from Juliana Hatfield, Duffy, Tift Merritt, Shelby Lynne and Melody Gardot, among others – before listening to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.
Late in my workday, I clicked play on DKOL for the first time in a week. It fit right into the musical bacchanal and, just as last week, I soon found myself lost in the music.
Apple Music classifies the album as alternative, while the Guardian newspaper calls it “Americana-tinged pop rock” and others call it Americana, Britpop and/or whatnot. To my ears, honestly, it’s all that and more, essentially the totality of what’s come before with all that’s coming next. At times, it conjures such AOR stalwarts as Fleetwood Mac (in the title track and “Rely On”) and Tom Petty (in “Punchline” and “I’m Getting Lost”), while other songs share sonic similarities with Blur and Oasis (“1994”). Those ghosts in the grooves don’t detract, however, but instead add to the overall timeless vibe. In a yin-yang kind of way, the set is simultaneously more streamlined and expansive than her last, with blunt rhythms anchoring Bird’s crystalline vocals when they soar past the stratosphere. The atmospheric excursions aren’t overdone, however; as often, Bird flies close to ground. The title track is one example; “Now Is the Time” and “Red, White and Blue” are others.
Here she is performing “Now Is the Time”:
The album opens with an ethereal wave, aka “Dkol,” that’s best appreciated via headphones before kicking into gear with “Open Up in Heavens,” which was the last song she wrote for the project. “Do you really know what it feels like/ending up alone in the middle of the night?” she asks near its end. As with the rest of the songs, she doesn’t wait around long for an answer – the longest track clocks in at 3:47, with the bulk closer to three minutes. I jokingly equated Bird and band to a twang-infused Ramones after seeing her in concert in 2018; the brevity leaves the listener – or this listener, at any rate – wanting more from certain songs. I’d love to hear Bird and band stretch out for, say, four or five minutes, with vocal pyrotechnics matched by incendiary guitar work.
In any event, my main criticism of her 2019 full-length debut was that the uptempo numbers (“Uh-Huh,” “Lottery,” “Love Has All Been Done Before” and “I Get No Joy”) relied on the same basic formula, which made the album play out more as a collection of singles than a traditional album. Here, brevity aside, the songs flow from one to the next the way songs on albums should, acting as metaphoric accents and umlauts on what comes before and after. All in all, it’s a trip well worth taking. (Incidentally, the Apple Music version tacks “Headstrong” on at the end. For what that’s worth.)
The track list: