A languid yet often heart-rending return...
'The Heart Speaks In Whispers'

‘The Heart Speaks in Whispers’, the third LP from the Leeds songstress Corinne Bailey Rae is a phoenix rising chapter. After the grief-stricken potency of sophomore effort ‘The Sea’, charting the effects of an unfathomable tragedy, Rae finds a measure of catharsis and peace. ‘Whispers’ embodies this light at the end of the tunnel, a record teeming with syrupy goodness and hope, all sun-baked and whimsical.

It’s a record that benefits from not being as emotionally hefty as its predecessor, even if it does lack the communal, painstaking highs. Still, it’s a reflection of changing tides, a newfound love central to the narrative, the overarching theme of finding happiness again, succinctly defined in the lyric: “After all this bitterness, it tastes like caramel”. Sonically it’s Rae’s most expansive work too, veering away from the linear simplicity of her first two releases in favour of something a little more bohemian and characteristic. ‘Been To The Moon’ signals a more retro-futurist Rae, traversing a plane occupied by the likes of Janelle Monae, a welcome departure from the piano-laden torch songs of past. Songs often frequent the five-minute mark, Rae concerned less with gloss and more with artistic dynamism.

Indeed much of the record’s backbone is built from an exposure to the more experimental sides of underground urban music, the likes of Thundercat and the Saint Heron contingent leaving their imprint on the production. ‘Green Aphrodisiac’ a honeyed slice of stoned-out neo-soul, sees Rae bathing in the after-glow of a new love. Unravelling at a languid pace, its home to wistful harmonies, and Badu-esque ruminations. Yet, Rae can still rein it in and pack that heartrending blow when she wants; ‘Do You Ever Think of Me?’ features a soaring vocal over light, lamenting acoustics, the standout ballad of the record.

Corinne Bailey Rae emerges as a renewed person on ‘The Heart Speaks In Whispers’, the fruits on offer refreshingly wide-ranging but bound together by a core effervescent foundation. Occasionally Rae slips into serviceable, insipid pop, but it’s a minor grievance in a record that takes her from monochromatic to technicolour dreaming.

7/10

Words: Shahzaib Hussain

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