Breakup albums. I’ve got a fair few on my ‘Albums I Listen to Incessantly and Never Tire of’ list: Ryan Adams’ ‘Heartbreaker’ is one, http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/36-heartbreaker/, and Beck’s ‘Sea Change’ another, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-best-albums-of-the-2000s-20110718/beck-sea-change-20110707 . I like these particular albums, not because I have schadenfreude tendencies, but because unexpectedly raw beauty has been created by two artists, neither of whom were previously known for their overly-sensitive sides. Beck sat on his twelve songs for two years not wanting to ‘strew his baggage across the public lobby.’ I suppose with track names like ‘Guess I’m Doing Fine,’ ‘Lonesome Tears’ and ‘Already Dead’ there could have been accusations of wallowing self-indulgence. Although the album is awash with lush string arrangements, the lyrics are so honest, so stricken yet delivered in a deadpan detached tone, that any hint of sentimentality doesn’t get a look in.
Similarly, there’s a coolness in the latest album from folkster Alela Diane (she of the extraordinarily unearthly voice.) The story in ‘About Farewell’ is told in a non-linear way so, as we listen, the small, intimate details of memories build to form an overall picture of loss, of regret. In opening track ‘Colorado Blue’ we hear of a simple day in Autumn, the couple watching a sunrise from a neighbour’s roof, Alela taking photos in the cul-de-sac below. Then the killer line ‘Then you headed east and said her name’ is delivered and we begin to understand that everything that has gone before is a memory of something that no longer exists.
‘About Farewell’ is Alela Diane’s fifth album and her finest to date. It has a commonality with her earlier releases but it finds Diane in a different place, both lyrically and musically, from the full-band sound and robustness of her fourth album ‘Alela Diane & Wild Divine’. Wild Divine was Diane’s touring band before it became a permanent entity. Members include Diane’s father, Tom Menig, and her (now ex-)husband, guitarist Tom Bevitori. And so, out of the end of that marriage emerged the ruminations on ‘About Farewell’.
Here is a gorgeous song ‘Oh! My Mama’ from Diane’s second and critically-acclaimed album, 2004’s ‘The Pirate’s Gospel.’
I’ll leave you with another track from ‘About Farewell’ , a questioning contemplative meditation called ‘Lost Land’.