Published May 27, 2016Throughout her career, Grammy-winning R&B singer Corinne Bailey Rae has been portrayed as a cheerful songwriter, with sweetly quiet, tender lyrics that complement the acoustic guitar she often carries in hand. But after Rae's husband passed away in 2008, the British singer and songwriter went on creative hiatus, then returned with her gloomiest record to date, The Sea, in 2010. Now, after stepping away from the spotlight for six years, Rae returns with a record that finds her having grown and perfected the sound that made her name.
The Heart Speaks in Whispers may not be Rae's most explicitly personal album, but it has a refined quality that the others don't. The Rae of old can be heard, soulful and quiet, on "Hey I Won't Break Your Heart," the lyrics simple and poignant as the song builds with intensity to a lushness that becomes ever more present throughout the record.
Rae told Exclaim! that she wanted to "[use] the studio as an instrument and [be] able to experiment" this time around, and it shows: the soulstress makes use of a fascinating roster of producers here, including Esperanza, KING and Moses Sumney, who amplify the vibrancy Rae exudes, adding an alternative edge unheard anywhere on The Sea. Rae's record was built from jam sessions with friends that honed her renowned sound. The electrified grooves sound inspired by KING, especially on "Hey I Won't Break Your Heart," while Sumney's vocals flicker in "Caramel."
"Been To The Moon" is an '80s R&B groover, quaint with gentle lyrics and a picturesque video to match, while "The Skies Will Break" is refreshingly atmospheric and uplifting; mid-way, like the eye of a storm, the song swoops and slides into a downtempo, twinkling electric piano bridge. "Green Aphrodisiac" sways on top of a burly Marcus Miller bass line, harmonic vocals and a sensual groove, which combine to provide Rae's stand out single. "Horse Print Dress" dips and soars, beginning with Rae's stripped down, raw voice before slowly revealing its peaks, as Rae unexpectedly and triumphantly explodes on the chorus.
The Heart Speaks in Whispers' mood is thoughtful and light, with an emotional range and sharp artistic direction that was lacking on her past records. Here, Rae seems meditative and at peace, and invites her listeners in as she sings about nature's subtleties, dreams and getting past the fog of the past. Rae feels light here, no longer weighed down by her past and suddenly able to address pain with emotional wisdom. The Heart Speaks in Whispers is a summer record that reveals the warmth in silver linings. (Virgin)