Corinne Bailey Rae seems to be very deliberately fashioning her new album, The Heart Speaks In Whispers, as a push into newer, more positive territory. Her second album, Sea, was drawn from personal trauma, as her husband, Jason Rae, passed away during its recording. Appropriately, the record felt lost and mournful, with sombre instrumentals underpinning the majority of it. Her new album comes six years later, and is a different beast entirely.
Whilst Sea occupied largely soul-music territory, The Heart Speaks In Whispers exists in the realm of pop music. This is by no means a bad thing, and the strongest tracks on the record are the ones that seem to be most reaching for radio play. Opener The Skies Will Break combines acoustic strumming with a 4/4 kick beat, and swirling harps, but the vocal melodies are all pop, almost resembling late-period Coldplay. It displays a mastery of tension and release, but its relative lack of bombast suggests it may struggle to find the audience it’s looking for. Been To The Moon is similarly strong, with minor-key synth jabs in the verses leading into the smooth piano of the chorus.
Unfortunately, much of the album also feels like a retread of the somewhat bland soul stylings of her early work. Tracks like Green Aphrodisiac are overly long and sedate, without the emotional weight to make them worth sitting through. Horse Print Dress feels similarly regressive, with a dull beat, and uninspiring melody. It never quite reaches the point of elevator music, but it gets close. Like much of the music in her career, The Heart Speaks In Whispers shows Corinne Bailey Rae as unfulfilled potential. It’s a decent album, but not an exceptional one, squandering much of the good will its more engaging tracks create. One can only hope her next release is more focussed.