A melancholic, melodic and thoughtful record which looks to the past and the future.
Alela Diane’s first album for almost five years was recorded in Portland during the spring and summer of 2021. It’s a record that contemplates a troubled world from a very personal point of view, as well as where we go to seek solace. The first two songs, ‘Paloma’ and ‘Howling Wind’, were both written during storms that took place in Mexico and the Pacific Northwest respectively. Diane draws wider parallels between the volatile times we’re living through and the increasingly capricious weather systems. ‘Howling Wind‘ was written at the piano in Diane’s backyard studio during a windstorm. Diane says that, “It was born of the great reckoning we’ve been living through these past few years”. It mentions protests and how people do their best to look after their loved ones during tough times.
‘When We Believe’ uses an old school, double tracked vocals which gives it a different feel to the other songs on the album. It reflects on a previous life travelling across the country with the ‘windows rolled down, off to some small town’. ‘Strawberry Moon’ and ‘Another Dream’ feature beautiful instrumentation and wouldn’t be out of place on a Joanna Newsom album, so it’s no surprise to find that they were both arranged by Ryan Francesconi, one of Newsom’s regular collaborators.
‘Dream A River‘ documents an illicit visit Diane made to her former home in Nevada City California, which had become vacant and how she’s ‘a trespasser in the place she once called home’, as well as how the past is always with us. ‘Camellia’ concerns Diane’s brush with death whilst giving birth to her youngest daughter in 2017, when she was ‘dangling there by a small thread’ and ‘sinking softly as a stone’. It features Diane’s atmospheric, sombre piano playing and some beautiful flute by Heather Woods Broderick. It reflects Diane’s deepest thoughts and how the darkness was overcome, ‘February bloom, February blood, Camellia’.
‘Looking Glass’ is a beautiful and aptly named record. The past and future are knitted together. As Alice learnt in the Lewis Carroll book, which inspired this album’s title, even though the past can’t be changed, it can be learnt from. This evocative record is a reminder that although our past is sometimes a source of sadness, it can also provide us with comfort.