Corinne Bailey Rae is content. Content that the creation of her third album has been a fresh direction for her, even if it may not feel like that to all listeners initially. Six years on from the phenomenal, Mercury-nominated album, The Sea, the Leeds musician, who tragically lost her first husband, saxophonist Jason Rae, in 2008, is in love again and wants to share her newfound happiness with the world. The Heart Speaks in Whispers doesn’t quite have the total flourish of its predecessor, but it is an album of serenity and patient beauty.
The prevailing mood on Whispers is calmness. There are calm guitar chords, calm keys, calm strings, calm vocals – you get the idea. And, naturally, calm overriding means that most of the tracks have slow, unhurried tempos. This can even be said for the album’s relatively fast tracks, such as opener ‘The Skies Will Break’ and smooth, summer holiday kick-starter ‘Horse Print Dress’.
These tracks feel like fragments of the young Bailey Rae, who was once quite the rock chick (her first band, Helen, stylised themselves on American rock groups), come through anew. But Whispers doesn’t present anything of pace as out-and-out euphoric as ‘Paris Nights / New York Mornings’. Where the album runs into trouble is when it becomes far too placid for its own good. The anthemic ‘Stop Where You Are’, which Bailey Rae has described as a “song that I wrote about being in the present”, for all its rousing vocal accompaniment, feels too safe and uneventful for this skilful soulstress.
Still, when Bailey Rae is at her best with this collection of slow-cooked numbers, oh, man, does she take you places. Her new, sunny outlook is expressed with deftness on ode to happiness ‘Caramel’. Meanwhile, Amber Strother and Paris Strother of King, have put their downtempo soul talents to strong use on ‘Tell Me’, the astral ‘Been to the Moon’, and weightless serenade ‘Green Aphrodisiac’. Finally, there’s ‘Do You Ever Think of Me?’, an impossible lagoon of slow-poured emotion, and the enduring ‘Walk On’, two contemplative songs that will continue to floor you again and again.
The Heart Speaks in Whispers can be a tad overindulgent. But, if you have the patience for its slow-paced songs of love, resilience and self-respect, you will leave feeling composed and refreshed. In years to come, this album will continue to reveal layers of emotion you hadn’t realised were there.
The Heart Speaks in Whispers is out now on Virgin EMI Records.
Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @aarnlee.
Image: Virgin EMI Records/PR