Alela Diane

Review: Alela Diane – Alela Diane & Wild Divine

FINALLY made it back to Graywhale on Thursday. As I was upstairs scanning the indie CDs, this familiar voice drifted over the in-house stereo. Of course, just like any store, when you want help, it’s never around. I patiently waited until someone came back upstairs, which surprisingly took about half an hour. Upon his return, I asked, “Hey, so … a while ago, you had a CD playing that sounded  a lot like Alela Diane. Could you find out who that was?”

Well, ha ha. Guess who just released her newest CD on Tuesday. Guess who bought that very same CD. Guess who’s listening to it right now.

This is the 3rd pass through this new marvel of hers. It gets better and better with each listen. That is by no means to indicate or imply that the first listen was by any means boring; I do not buy boring music. I do take risks from time to time and buy the occasional CD on a hunch, whim, or for no reason at all other than I simply want to buy one. This CD was none of those. Having owned To Be Still for well over a year and The Pirate’s Gospel for just about a year, I was positive that her new CD would be no let-down. As almost always, I was right.

The immediate difference I noticed on this CD is the fact that percussion plays a *much* larger role than on her previous two CDs. about 80% of the tracks on her new CD use drums, as compared to To Be Still, where drums appear on maybe 25-30% of her tracks. It’s a different sound, but it is definitely and uniquely HER. There is just no mistaking that voice. Much like Joana Newsom or Samantha Crain, or Geoff Tate, Geddy Lee … all of whom have incredibly distinctive voices, Alela’s voice shines through as a uniquely polished gem that leaves me begging for more.

Having said all that, the other thing I noticed even while standing around Graywhale was that her voice has grown stronger. Or maybe she’s just using it in a stronger manner. Either way, she has risen to new heights with this new offering.

I love her writing style. Her songs explore her thoughts, feelings and experiences, and she tells them through not just the words, but also through her vocals and how she uses her voice. You can feel the emotion and feeling in how she presents her music. She bares her soul, and you get to live her music–not just hear it.

This is one of those CDs where I have a difficult time picking out stand-out tracks because ALL of them are amazing and beautiful. I can pinpoint “Elijah” as the story-telling track about a woman she meets in France. I love “The Wind” for its incredible ability to relax me even more than the CD does on its own. There’s kind of a Margarita-ville feel to it in that it’s just so … breezy? I can imagine listening to this while sitting on the deck of a boat and staring out at the setting sun off the coast of some place like Pensacola Florida. I dunno. It’s just that easy-going. Love it.

So here’s what you do: find this CD as soon as possible. Amazon has it, as does iTunes. Pick up this new CD, and if you don’t have her other material, pick it up too cuz it’s all awesome.

 

More New Music!

HOLY crap it’s been forever since I’ve made it to Graywhale. It was like visiting an old friend … basically because I did visit an old friend. Never a disappointment, that Graywhale place.

Today’s haul is *FANTASTIC*. While I was perusing the indie section, I heard this familiar voice coming over the in-house stereo. Pausing briefly to give it proper attention, I was pretty sure it was Alela Diane, but the voice seemed … different. Like it could be her, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were someone else.

I went back to rummaging through the shelves of CDs and made a mental note to ask behind-the-counter guy who the girl was. He came back upstairs about 25 minutes later.

“Hey, so … about half an hour ago there was some chick singing. Was that Alela Diane? Cuz it sure sounded like her, but I have both her CD and EP, and it doesn’t sound like anything on those.”

“Yup. She just released a CD on Tuesday. Want it?”

“Sure.”

Last copy they had, too. Made me very, very happy. He actually had to take it out of the player, which means it was “used,” which means I got it at the used price and not new. My guys know how to hook me up!

So here’s the full list of new stuff:

  • Alela Diane & Wild Divine
  • Casio Kids – Topp Stemning Pa Lokal Bar
  • The Brunettes – Structure & Cosmetics
  • Head Like a Kite – Random Portraits of the Home Movie
  • Kinski – Alpine Static
  • Amy Millan – Honey from the Tombs
  • Million Billion – Ready, Fire, Aim
  • The Most Serene Republic – Underwater Photography
  • Mona – Your Favorite Thing
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves – Elan Vital
  • Saint Etienne – Tiger Boy

Of the lot, I’m most excited to hear Amy Millan, The Brunettes, Casio Kids because I think they’re from Norway or some place over that way, and Pretty Girls Make Graves. To be fair, I’ve already dipped into the Alela Diane CD, and it is indeed everything I hoped it would be. I plan on posting a review of it later today.

Upcoming Releases for Fantastic Music

This morning, as I was heading in to work, Alela Diane’s “White as Diamonds” shuffled through my phone. Having not listened to To Be Still in a while, I “unshuffled” my playlist and started from “Dry Grass and Shadows.”

There are few voices as distinct as hers. There are also few voices that can evoke such emotion–such raw, visceral feeling. She pours her soul into her music. Not that most artists don’t, but hers … sweet cabbage and mutton, how does she do it?

I started wondering if she has anything coming down the pike. In the “HUZZAH!!” category, we have this bit of news straight off her website: new CD coming out in the spring. No specific date, but her site is in a state of overhaul, I guess … at least that’s the illusion on the front page, so maybe more news will be forthcoming with the new site.

So THAT got me wondering who else has new stuff coming in the near future. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of potential releases in the next few months.

  • Alela Diane - Spring release.
  • Sarah Fimm - A new release is immenently close at hand. She’s taunting us with talk of a new song on her Facebook page.
  • Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day, March or April.
  • The Dears - Degeneration Street, Februray 15 (though this might just be a Canadian-only release date … not sure)
  • Dredg – early 2011 (nothing on their site other than a post from August targeting an “early 2011″ release)
  • Eisley - The Valley, March 1

Brief interruption … looks like the good folks from Gypsy Death and You are hooking me up with some tune-age. Again, I refer you to NewBandDay‘s post about them for “Crocus” and “Something I Can’t Have.”

And now, back to the list. On with the show, as they say, blah blah blah.

  • Samantha Crain – coming at some point hopefully in 2011, but it looks like she has a lot of projects that are keeping her well booked, so we’ll hope. She’s writing new stuff, so that’s good!
  • Well, crap. I wanted to post that Rush will be releasing their new CD this year, but it looks like they’ll resume recording in the late summer or early fall for Clockwork Angels, which will probably be released in early 2012. Well *that* sucks.
  • Howling Bells – early to mid year (?). Looks like they’re done with the recording and they’re well into the mixing stage, if not past it. Of interesting note is the fact that Mark Stroemer, of The Killers fame, is producing the CD. Hmm.
  • Marissa Nadler – Her site has a donation page set up, and the funding has been met as of December 9th. Not sure if she’s in the studio or not, but you can follow her blog here.

Honestly, I’m sure there are a ton more, and I’ll do some more research later, but for now, that’s enough to whet just about any musical appetite. Stay tuned …

Alela Diane – To Be Still

I was at Gray Whale this afternoon for a quick music fix. I’m really digging the fact that a lot of their used CDs are $2.99. I bought their discount card for $20 several years ago, which means I get $1 off for every CD.

Maybe it’s because I go in there a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve probably bought about 50-60 CDs there since Ocotber. As I was rooting through the indie bin, I found Samantha Crain’s “Songs in the Night” CD. I just about passed out. I had been meaning to pick it up from Amazon, but I never got around to it. Now it’s just sitting in the local used CD shop indie bin. SWEET!

I took my stuff to the register and chatted with the guy about her CD. “Have you ever heard her?”

“Yah, she’s really good.”

“She sounds a lot like a mix of Regina Spektor and Feist.”

“Hey, yah. That’s spot-on.”

She sound like them. Amazingly gifted vocal talent, great folksy blues music. Just an amazing CD. If you have the chance to pick it up, do so.

But that’s not what I’m going to write about. Not today, anyway.

So I also got a couple of blu-ray discs. They keep the actual discs behind the counter, and put the cases out on display. Because I bought everything upstairs, I had to go back down to the main level to get my discs. Thankfully, Kylee was interrupted by a relatively lengthy phone call because it gave upstairs guy a chance to come downstairs. He and I got to talking again, and he ended up handing me a copy of Alela Diane’s new CD, “To Be Still.”

“Have you ever heard her?”

“No. Haven’t.”

“Here. Take this. If you like Samantha Crain, you’ll probably dig this chick.”

“Cool. I’ll check it out. Thanks!”

Musically, the first thing I heard was a steel sliding guitar. Not exactly my cup of tea, and I instantly thought Super … a country CD. Could’ve used this last night for a coaster.”

How wrong I was. Keyboards, steel guitar, acoustic guitar, light drums … mellow.

That was the only CD I listened to on the way back to work. Vocally, she sounds like a folksy version of Bat for Lashes meets Dido.

Then there are the lyrics. She reminds me of Suzanne Vega in her level of detail and poetic style. She pours her heart and soul into her vocals to help paint the scene that she portrays–not in a boistrous or overbearing way … she sings at a perfect level fitting for her music.

Here are the lyrics to “Dry Grass and Shadows.”

There are things that I’ve seen in my head
While I’m sleeping in bed
That do not wither in the morning light

I’m taken back
O I’m taken back
To the dry grass and the shadows

Thinking I’d like to look at your teeth
Lined up in perfect rows
A maze of childrens’ feet in orchard trees
Where the flat lands stretch inside your mouth
And when you laugh all the star thistles stumble out
The flat lands stretch inside your mouth
And when you laugh all the star-thistles stumble out
Strong spines of valley hills
All overgrown in gold
Look softer than a spool of old silk thread
But if we walked down with our feet
I’d be pullin’ spines and barbs and fox-tails from your skin
O if we walked down with our feet
I’d be pullin’ spines and barbs and fox-tails from your skin

There are things that I’ve seen in my head
While I’m sleeping in bed
That do not wither in the morning light

I’m taken back
O I’m taken back
To the dry grass and the shadows

I’m excited to find the rest of her stuff. She has strong staying power.

Official website: http://www.aleladiane.com