Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Birdy, Self-titled (+video)

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Birdy. Photo / Supplied
Birdy. Photo / Supplied

Some might say releasing an album of covers as your debut is a bit of a cop-out, but for this 15-year-old English songstress, it could be a smart move. She has promising vocal abilities, and a good delivery that seems to belie her age, a pure sound with a hint of vibrato, and it suits this selection of mostly indie pop songs. She'll get some good YouTube mileage out of each track, and expand her fan base - after all it was through her elegant and economical cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love that she originally caught public attention.

She seems to be a reasonably self-possessed and sensible young woman who's keen to appeal to the Pitchfork-reading, intellectual, arty, hipster types. Or maybe she just likes the songs - and they are good songs: Shelter by the xx, White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, Terrible Love by the National, 1901 by Phoenix, even golden oldie Fire and Rain by James Taylor.

But the problem is, while Birdy's versions of blogosphere favourites individually stand up and do a good job of showcasing her talents, the overall effect is a little too sincere, winsome, fragile and samey.

The arrangements are also solid, but not particularly imaginative, and occasionally stray into early 2000s piano pop cliches.

There are some goosebumpy moments though. When her voice is layered over itself at the climatic point of White Winter Hymnal, she sounds dramatic and festive at the same time; her quivering, pleading version of People Help the People by Cherry Ghost is better than the original; and her vocal turn in Young Blood by Kiwis the Naked and Famous reminds of Antony and the Johnsons while nearly capturing the youthful delight of the original. On her only original track, Without a Word, she sounds like she's been listening to Adele too much, but that's really almost a compliment. If Birdy can find her own distinct voice and diversify a little, there's no telling where she'll be in five years.

Stars: 3/5

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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