Saturday, 14 May 2016

"The Heart Speaks in Whispers" (Corinne Bailey Rae)

Part of the 'Lyrical Lifelines' Series

Website screenshot - Purchasing info here

I've been so excited for the release of this album that I pre-ordered it on iTunes - something I've never felt inclined to do before. 

I clearly remember buying Corrine Bailey Rae's first album, not long after it came out in 2006, which would have made me eighteen at the time. I was on a school trip to see "We Will Rock You" at the Dominion Theatre with my A-level German class and our language exchange partners. I got on really well with my partner, but the trip was a chance for her to catch up with friends she hadn't seen all week. I ended up sitting alone on the coach ride into London, pretending to be asleep and feeling so small. It was pretty symptomatic of that stage of life for me: friends with everyone, close to no-one. 

We arrived in London early and were allowed to go shopping. I remember wandering into the HMV store, as it was then, at the intersection of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, hearing her songs playing and buying the CD on impulse. I was so comforted by them! "Put Your Records On" was playing everywhere that summer, and her empathy with teenage insecurity felt utterly liberating. But it was "Seasons Change" that I had on repeat, reminding me to be patient with my circumstances and believe in better things to come.

Fast-forward ten years (plus a second album that I loved for its haunting bravery), and here I am - once again finding that the songs she has written have such timely resonance. "Stop Where You Are" was the first song that I really took on board from the pre-release, feeling slightly chastised by the lines  "Give up all the things you can't control / Still yourself and watch them come and go / Wherever you are you'll find you're home at last" - a timely rebuke against my endless striving and tantrums, trying to manipulate life to my agenda.

Because life is definitely doing its own sweet thing right now. But it is sweet: it's something of a renaissance. And that sense of untameable vision, the unknown and the huge optimism of being on the edge of your best self - it's all echoed in the lyrics on this album, and in the energy and adventure of the musical arrangements. Amplified, actually - these feel like songs where the best things in life are upfront and central, brought into sharp focus for those of us (like me) who constantly forget to notice. These are songs of hope, of passion and sensuality, of reincarnation. It's all the more humbling a triumph in the context of Corinne Bailey Rae's personal circumstances over the last few years. 

For me, Corinne Bailey Rae will always be something of a beautiful and wise older cousin - someone relatable that I can learn from and be spurred on by. Someone whose artistry forever enriches my world. And for that, I have to say thank you.

'Lyrical Lifelines' - songs that save my world

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