Natalie Imbruglia

Firebird

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Firebird Review

by Heather Phares

Over the years, Natalie Imbruglia has veered between pop that pushes the envelope and the kind that aims straight at the mainstream. Her later albums blended those extremes more evenly; on 2015's Male, she made songs written by Daft Punk and Tom Petty sound like her own. Six years on, Firebird finds her balancing the different sides of her music, as well as hope and heartache, with assurance. The album's title is no coincidence -- there's a triumphant feel to the whole affair, and the happiest songs are among the most immediate. "Build It Better" kicks off the album on a confident, optimistic note, and "What It Feels Like" and "Invisible Things" are so sweetly breezy that they're ready for their rom-com closeups. Any time it feels like things might be getting a little too smooth, Imbruglia brings back the edge her music has hinted at since "Torn" and White Lilies Island. Created with the Strokes' Albert Hammond, Jr. and that band's longtime producer Gus Oberg, the standout "Maybe It's Great" is a fun synth pop pastiche that calls to mind Robyn as well as Scandal and Pat Benatar, while "On My Way"'s twangy rock echoes the Pretenders and "River"'s moody mix of electronic and acoustic instrumentation harks back to Left of the Middle. If songs such as these hint that Imbruglia hasn't forgotten the past as she rises from the ashes, then she makes it clear with "Just Like Old Times," a fond look back that isn't a wish to turn back the clock, and the unapologetic acceptance of "Not Sorry." Though the album's generous track list presents many different facets of Imbruglia's style, they -- and Firebird as a whole -- all feel genuine.

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