The greatest and most completely brilliant album you’re likely to hear and experience this year was finally released in the UK this week.
‘Speak A Little Louder‘ by Diane Birch has been a long time coming. The sophomore album follows from the 2009 debut ‘Bible Belt’ which was in itself a grand masterpiece. On her second outing, Diane has crafted an album that is exquisite and wondrous, a tour de force that is filled with heartfelt soul and genuine gut wrenching emotion. It is an album that speaks of heartbreak, loss and sorrow together with optimism, possibility and joy. A collection that imbues the spirit and offers respite – it is a exploration of truth, beauty, healing and unity. It is a hugely compelling collection of songs where each resonates deeply in the conscience.
Opening and title track ‘Speak A Little Louder’ provides a mesmerising glimpse into the ambitious record and offers a throwback soundscape that uses drum loops, piano driven hooks and sultry sun-soaked vintage vocals. The message of speaking up when it seems impossible to be heard makes it a certain underdog anthem. Similarly, tracks such as ‘Superstars’ and ‘Unfkd’ are equally vast, expansive and all encompassing – they share the avant grande hallmarks of seventies sounds and influences evoking the spirit of prog-rock artists. They each build to multilayered crescendos that will send guarteneed shivers down the spine and more importantly, they will lift and set the heart free, dazzling and soaring on its way.
Tracks such as ‘Lighthouse’, ‘Love And War’, ‘Frozen Over’ and ‘Pretty In Pain’ tap into a synth driven, galloping powerhouse stadium sound – the haunting vocals and arrangements replicate the sensibilities that makes music so irresistible – meaningful, thoughtful lyrics, stylised drum rhythms, dynamic multilayered piano together with inspired vocal arrangements.
The albums lead single ‘All The Love You Got’ reveals a bittersweet tale of loss, regret and somewhat thankful relief – it is a self-aware, reflective anthem which mixes empathy and understanding with an underlying darker edge. The Eg White production matched with the Questlove percussion and the bass licks of Duran Duran’s John Taylor provides an additional enigmatic, effortless quality.
A note should be reserved for the album closer, ‘It Plays On’ which is a luscious, hypnotic piano led ballad that flourishes with beauty and colour.
The record showcase a vast array of styles that traverse through artpop, neo-soul, poprock and torch song, which on paper reads as an irregular, unconventional sound yet works entirely and cohesively. The sounds offer a nod and pay a respect to the influences that have shaped Diane’s diverse musical palate yet, it is never a pastiche though as she turns in a modern collection that is teeming with life and vibrancy – it is deftly unique and wholly original.
Diane’s vocal throughout is both majesty and grace – the already flawless tone and quality has developed across the transition between albums. The delivery reaches that often difficult task of marrying ecstasy with pain – with the use of her voice alone, ‘Speak A Little Louder’ is an album that will make you cry a river of tears but one that will make your body move as though your life depended on it.
A deluxe edition, boasting five additional tracks has sadly not been released in the UK (although is available through import via AmazonUK), is nonetheless essential and contains further startling brilliance, particularly a song to bolster the spirit of the lost and weary ‘Hold On A Little Longer’ with its assuring timbre “no-one seems to hear when you shout, hold on a little longer” and the fragile, achingly tender ‘Truer Than Blue’.
‘Speak A Little Louder’ is an album for us all and without doubt the album that reminds us to remain true, stand firm and take strength even though dreams and hope seems a far off distant land. ‘Speak A Little Louder’ an exceptional, devastating treasure.