Corinne Bailey Rae’s latest album, “The Sea,” emanates a familiar, soulful voice. This is the very voice that multitudes were enamored by in 2006 with Rae’s catchy “Girl Put Your Records On.”
Although Rae is instinctively labeled as the bright, boho muse who sings the types of songs you would hear at Starbucks or Borders, her new album brings a more blazing persona to the table. Sultrily charismatic, Rae avoids over-exuding the sex appeal and rather focuses on a more emotionally raw and dismal approach with a hint of stripped-down, bare indie flavor. Of course, the darker tone of this album is in direct connection to the sudden death of her husband, from a suspected drug overdose. Allegedly, Jason Rae, a musician, was described as a hard partier with addiction problems. This would definitely explain the cryptic frustration and cloudy view on life within the reminiscing lyrics.
In the background, snappy percussions, strums from the acoustic guitar along with melodious notes from the piano complement the singing. Rae stays true to her contemporary jazz and R&B background through the blares from the trumpets and smooth sounds from the saxophone. She even introduces new genres into the mix with the electric guitar.
On would most likely expect a laid-back tone for the album if alluding back to the title. Instead, just like the sea’s choppy nature during rough weather, Rae’s effort is washed out by the inconsistent, winding theme. Her experiment gives a displeasing lineup of inharmonious songs, taking us in circles.
A few of the songs are well-matched for the current generation of young adults due to the heart-wrenching lyrics, but some, though interesting, fail to fall under the category of instant hits. “Are You Here” is a melting, Kurt-Cobain-like rendition while “Feels Like the First Time” is edgy, laced with the sharp keys of the piano. “The Sea” gives a more pleasant, mellow mood. Another highlight, “Paris Nights/New York Mornings,” the only upbeat, funk- influenced component, is exciting and retro-like but could fit back into her first album.
On the other hand, “Paper Dolls” and “Diving for Hearts,” which bordered rock, stuck out like two sore thumbs. The song that truly deviated from the rest, “The Blackest Lily,” comes with the electric guitar attempting to mask Rae’s ‘70s era shouting. Her attempt was a bit pathetic, sounding wheezy due to the fast-paced tempo. Unfortunately, it brought a feeling of uneasiness in the chest. The content is also disorienting, with “I didn’t know what day it was,” while in “Closer,” Rae admits to having “had enough” and “want[ing] to get close to you.”
However, Rae penned “I’d Do It All Again” two months before Jason Rae’s passing during an argument the two had. She vented her anger within the lyrics and her voice oozes with bittersweet honesty.
A few times her singing sounds unnatural, almost off key. Rae states that it was intentional to create a genuine mood. But, it fueled annoyance. There came a point when one was longing for her earthy voice from the first album, which was a positive compilation of wholesome good times within the female mindset in a bohemian and R&B backdrop. This album boosted her into being hailed as a promising artist full of endless talent. Nevertheless, the majority of the time in her new songs, Rae’s melodious voice, natural, powerful, vibrant and nearly slumber-inducing, softly utters gradual undulations and never failed to smoothly transition into a sweet falsetto.
The “The Sea” does take Rae to another level, though perhaps through the creative yet risky route, and it was messy and brim full of emotions. Nevertheless, Rae’s work is captivating and noteworthy for her creamy, broken, and salty mixture in her deliverance is what listeners should look forward to.