Alela Diane – Alela Diane & Wild Divine
It has been almost two years since Alela Diane’s sophomore album, To Be Still, but since then she has been touring and working on her most recent release, Alela Diane & Wild Divine, which she wrote while on the road. Produced and engineered by Scott Litt (REM, Nirvana), this is Alela’s first time working with a producer. It is also her first with a band, Wild Divine, which includes her father, Tom Menig, and her new husband Tom Bevitori. So, with these changes, it becomes obvious Alela Diane & Wild Divine is inherently different from her previous records.
On the new album, many of the songs were co-written by her husband who helped to create the slightly altered sound, forcing Alela to venture down a path she would never have taken otherwise. The good but unexciting melodies, minor-chord changes, and brighter textures are provided by light percussion and acoustic guitar as well as the scattered mandolin, steel guitar and piano embellishments. However, despite the sunnier sonic quality, the sparseness of the backing band doesn’t allow for Wild Divine to live up to their name. The band just doesn’t offer anything interesting to the album, and if it wasn’t for Alela’s natural and mesmerizing voice, the album would just bore the listener to sleep.
Regardless of Wild Divine’s blandness, the album’s sunnier sound and gorgeous vocals make Alela’s songs more accessible in spite of wandering, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. The record’s first track, “To Begin,” is the listener’s first and proper taste of its dream-like quality. Set to a 70s AM radio sound, Alela richly sings about a hypnotic journey of self-discovery and truth. Her delicate, ethereal vocals in the wistfully nostalgic “Suzanne” and haunting “The Wind” are quiet beauties, while the melody of “Of Many Colors” is possibly the best on the album. And, “Heartless Highway” interestingly changes rhymtically throughout the song whereas “White Horse” abruptly changes rhythm and styles halfway through the song from a bluesy quality to country character. Finally, “Rising Greatness” is a great way to close the album with subtle acoustic guitar runs and moments of pain with Alela’s yearning tone and breaking vocals in which at times she powerfully pulls together to demonstrate times of greatness and resilience.
So in closing, I would like to say that Alela Diane & Wild Divine isn’t horrible, but instead a lackluster album that if played in the background could easily be forgotten. There just wasn’t an instance at any point in the record that moved me, stirred my soul, or excited me. It just left me wanting and if it wasn’t for Alela’s magnificent voice, the record would have fell flat and hard.