Jade Bird has changed. She’s not the young ingenue from England taking on Americana affectations to express the fact that she’s grown up. Musically, the songs on her latest album, Different Kinds of Light, resemble those of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac more than Brandi Carlile and the Highwomen, despite this album being produced by the same producer, Dave Cobb. Lyrically, Jade Bird was never a wimp, but she’s tougher now. She sings about the relationships in her life with a sneer as if she always knew they would end. She’s content to walk away from the pain and move on. She looks forward to what’s next.
“Now Is the Time”, Jade Bird declares on the song by that name. She understands that it’s easy not to take action when times are tough. While she’s singing to a depressed lover, the words apply to a wide range of people and circumstances. She offers Zen-like wisdom (“Never have I ever seen a better day to get up / Doesn’t matter ’bout the weather”) about being in the here and now. She strums her guitar brightly to cut through the fog clouding one’s mind and spirit. Jade Bird inspires one to get up and do something even when the circumstances are less than promising.
Besides, as Jade Bird notes on “Open Up the Heavens”, it can rain on a sunny day. She’s talking to herself to bolster her confidence as well as to others in her life. She emphasizes the importance of taking charge of one’s situation. While there may be disappointments and failures, the important thing is to keep on taking risks and keeping on. There’s a boisterousness to songs such as “Punchline”, “Honeymoon”, and “Trick Mirror” that identify her as someone willing to fight even when she knows the odds are against her.
“My baby placed a bet on me / I said that I would do anything,” she boasts on “1994”. Jade Bird takes pleasure in putting herself on the edge. That spirit carries her through hard times, but she has trouble when things are fine or even better than that. On “Headstart”, she can’t figure out how to make the first move when there’s the spark of romance in the air. Or there’s the protagonist of the title song, who has time to call her lover but wonders if she should bother. She doesn’t know if that will somehow affect the balance of the connection between them.
There are no explicitly political songs on the album. However, Jade Bird references the people on TV “all they do is talk shit” and ambiguously refers to a “Candidate” who sees people as fools who can be manipulated. The London-born musician offers an acoustic tune called “Red Blue and White” that personifies alienation but whose meaning is unclear (“You feel a space break / where your heart used to…”). Jade Bird recently moved to Austin, Texas. She doesn’t pretend to have any lessons to teach us. Instead, Jade Bird looks inside herself to understand where she’s at. It’s unclear whether she sees the inner light or not, but she’s clearly searching.