It’s been a long 12 years since we last had new original material from Natalie Imbruglia. In that time she’s taken a break, started a family and released an album of covers.
But what I’ve really missed is Natalie’s own brand of Aussie pop/rock tunes.
Her sixth studio album ‘Firebird’ feels like a bit of a rebirth.
Here, Natalie tackles every topic you can think of related to relationships. There’s a liberated and free feeling to each song here, but each possesses its own unique qualities. Harnessing the sounds of the ’80s and ’90s, the album is reminiscent of the time we first fell in love with her all those years ago.
A firebird derives from Russian folklore and represents something rare and difficult to possess. When you think about the lyrical content here about love and life, you instantly understand the connection Natalie is making. There’s also something to be said for the rarity of the firebird and how long Natalie has been an active songwriter.
Lead single ‘Build It Better’ is the anthem for getting out of this pandemic in one piece and maybe for life in general.
For me, it embodies the concept of a glass half full. She’s embracing the positives and the things she’s learned from the bad stuff too. While not an instant earworm, listen enough times and you’ll have it stuck in your head; the power of a grower.
I am a big fan of the mid-tempo bangers here. ‘What It Feels Like’ and ‘Maybe It’s Great’ just have so much fun and joy in them.
Ballads like ‘Dive To The Deep’ and ‘Change Of Heart’ feel like really great moments, not just for the album, but also for live shows.
That said, all the songs here could fit amongst her catalogue of hits and are a testament to the hard work she’s put in to craft and perfect this collection.
As always, I love taking a look at the writing and producing credits and there are some interesting collaborators here.
Luke Fitton (who has worked with Little Mix, Sigma and production powerhouse Xenomania of Girls Aloud fame) contributes to a couple songs. Fiona Bevan (Steps, 5SOS, Ed Sherman) also contributes to a couple songs.
One my favourite contributors is Albert Hammond Jr (lead guitarist from The Strokes), as ‘Maybe It’s Great’ is one of the catchiest and most upbeat songs on this album.
My only criticism is that Nat could have been slightly more focused on choosing the final track list. There are a few songs that are perfectly OK but don’t add a lot to the overall story arc of the album. They’d be fine as bonus tracks but didn’t need to extend out the standard album; a little editing would have made the collection even stronger.
Fans might also be asking “is this new enough?” when it comes to the sound. It’s not groundbreaking, but I don’t think it’s trying to be. It’s trying to be honestly Natalie Imbruglia and I’m glad she’s been finally able to shake her writer’s block with quality tunes rather than merely chasing a trend.
I don’t know about you, but I honestly am so glad to hear new music from Natalie. Her ability to tell stories through her work in a relatable way is the reason she is still making music today.
Hopefully her fans new and old also come out to support ‘Firebird’. It’s an excellent album from an iconic Australian artist.
VERDICT : 4/5.
MUST LISTEN : Build It Better, What It Feels Like, Maybe It’s Great, Dive To The Deep.