Birdy - Fire Within
A second album is a tricky prospect at the best of times, let alone when your first was predominantly cover-based and it was made when you were at the ripe old age of 15. Now two year's older, Jasmine van den Bogaerde - better known as Birdy - has a daunting two-fold task at hand: prove that she can make it as an original artist while also maturing as a musician. And to think, all most of us at 17 had to worry about was whether or not the bouncer would ask for ID. Fortunately, and smartly, Birdy hasn't done a Miley Cyrus and brazenly showcased her advancing years; instead, Fire Within is anything but showy and is instead a convincing argument that Birdy has some serious wings as a singer-songwriter.
For Fire Within, Birdy has written or co-written all 11 tracks and has taken the opportunity to develop her considerable strengths, while giving a tantalising glimpse at her lighter side. It all comes to the fore in a telling three-song trio that forms the centrepiece of the album. The traditional love ballad 'All You Never Say' utilises her achingly emotional vocals to full effect, before the haunting 'Strange Birds' delves darker: "You've always loved the strange birds / Now I want to fly into your world / I want to be heard". So far, so expected, but 'Maybe' blindsides you with its perky acoustic melody and delightfully upbeat lyrics ("Then maybe, we'll talk about old days / We'll smile in our old ways / You'll always be a part of me"), offering definitive proof that she is equally adept at turning tears into happiness - albeit tears probably put there by her in the first place.
So what about that maturity? Step forward 'No Angel', all vulnerable introspection and subtle, piano-led beauty. It's here that Fire Within gets its heart with the tale of a broken relationship that's all too relatable, with Birdy showcasing a lyrical prowess that belies her age: "Sometimes I wish we could be strangers / So I didn't have to know your pain / But if I kept myself from danger / This emptiness would feel the same." Combine this with the likes of the sublime opener 'Wings' and 'Standing In The Way Of The Light', and it's clear that the maturity doesn't just extend to the lyrics but also to her command of crafting a song to milk its full effect. Just try not to be lifted by that key change at the end of 'Standing...'
It's not all perfect - after 'Wings' sweeps all before it, 'Heart Of Gold' and the Florence-lite 'Light Me Up' falter in comparison - but would argue that we shouldn't really expect it to be. After all, while this is Birdy's second album, given the composition of her debut, at the very least it should be approached as a part two rather than a whole new chapter entirely. On that basis, this is a commanding statement of intent. As with her already impeccable vocals, the songwriting on display here is only likely to get better as it's honed, an exciting prospect for both artist and listener. When faced with a tricky prospect, Birdy doesn't just fly... she soars.