Before her performance at the Belasco Theater on Oct. 24, alt-pop singer-songwriter Birdy has dropped her fifth full-length album, Portraits. The British artist broke out into the mainstream with her cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” in 2011, surpassing the original in more ways than one and skyrocketing Birdy’s career when she was 14.
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Now, at 27 years old, she’s still exploring different ways of approaching the formula that has worked for her, taking on new pop music styles while keeping it all her own.
Opening on a softer note, “Raincatchers” predominantly features strings that add variety to the otherwise modern pop production, as evident by the drums. Briefly, 808s substitute the drums during the bridge before bringing every instrument back as they cascade around Birdy’s voice. As for the vocals, they’re as sharp as ever. For someone who has already proven herself to be a capable singer, she knows how to hit the mark with no issue and often gleams more than the instrumentals.
Though there’s the risk of losing cohesion for how often Portraits changes production styles, “Heartbreaker” does a 180, proving there’s no cause for worry. Along with shiny synths that depart from the strings, the heavy bass helps pack a punch behind Birdy’s already emotional performance and adds weight to a brief yet impressionable track.
None of the tracks waste time kicking into gear, as if time is always running out. The urgency helps since, judging by the lyrics, Birdy doesn’t have forever to keep waiting for love. Not unless it’s “Automatic,” which is among the album’s simplistic yet complementing to her talents. It’s also one of the shortest, making for a song that doesn’t stop for a second and keeps things going.
It’s easy to forget that Birdy has been making original material since she was 8, a long time even for someone like her who’s accomplished so much before hitting 30. And in a period that wide, there’s bound to be some bumps moving from album to album. That was the case for Portraits, which came out of emotional exhaustion after Young Heart.
“Naturally, I sought to make something that reflected the surge of energy inside me…and found a lot of freedom and joy venturing into a new sonic universe that I used to think I could never exist in authentically.” No matter how you look at it, Birdy’s universe is one of refinement, touching every corner of pop music with flying colors.
Words: David Sosa