Highlights: About Farewell, Nothing I Can Do, I Thought I Knew, Hazel Street, Rose & Thorn
My first reaction after listening to this album: ‘is it even possible for a contemporary folk artist to record an album this good?’ There’s so much depth, beauty, style to this. An album that sounds timeless from day one. Timelessness that is not just felt in a sad guitar line or Alela’s vocal intonation or even one whole song. It inhabits this album naturally, and never leaves it for one second.
Personality in a modern folk album, not something we’ve gotten used to – with all these hoards of washed out folkies hidden behind beards and poor melodies. Misguided, vulnerable souls – some even try pretentiousness. But perhaps the word ‘modern’ is a wrong one. After all, the only thing 'modern' about Alela Diane’s new album (her fifth) is the year of its release. With its stylishly faded vibe (I hope I’m not making it sound like a stylized album – nothing of the kind), haunting backing vocals and cozily autumnal melodies, About Farewell is an album that belongs to a different time. All the more charming to have it for ourselves now, in 2013, when folk music has long gone beyond self-parody. In fact, I’m more than happy to consider it our very own Just Another Diamond Day. Needless to say, this album has just as much commercial potential.
About Farewell has one consistent feel but there’s enough melodic and instrumental variation to make these 34 minutes among the most intriguing and unjustly brief of this music year. There are piano notes falling down like drops of rain during “Nothing I Can Do” (one of the coolest middle-eights in recent memory), there’s that classic electric guitar line in “About Farewell”, there’s hazy orchestration in the seductively fleeting “I Thought I Knew”, etc.
But most importantly – there’s an intriguing mystery to this album, something only the best artists can do.