Album Remarks & Appraisals:
2010 release, the long-awaited sophomore album from the British singer/songwriter. The Sea showcases a remarkable step forwards in the musical evolution of one of the most acclaimed artists of recent times. Corinne started work on the songs for her second album at the end of 2007, following a whirlwind two years which saw her go from unknown singer/songwriter to worldwide multi-platinum, award-winning artist with a string of Grammy and Brits nominations to her name. Recorded mainly in Leeds and Manchester and co-produced by Corinne Bailey Rae with two separate producers, Steve Brown and Steve Chrisanthou, The Sea is a career-defining album. Working with a new band of musicians, most of whom she has known for many years, she has produced an extraordinarily intimate album, full of a lyrical potency that is wonderfully descriptive yet honest, open and deeply evocative of her personal journey.
Rolling Stone (p.61) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Fragile arrangements -- guitar, auto-harp, orchestra -- suggest indie rock as much as R&B."
Spin (p.88) - "It's a darker, grittier effort suffused with a kind of shell-shocked melancholy."
Entertainment Weekly (p.69) - "What makes it all work is her lithe voice, as eloquent an instrument as ever." -- Grade: B+
Billboard (p.32) - "The song 'Are You Here' ripples with idyllic memories of love lost, as Rae sings over cymbals crashing into guitars..."
Paste (magazine) (p.61) - "[There's] a sense of personal and artistic growth -- rebirth even. The record is refreshingly eclectic..."
Uncut (magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The mood is established by 'Are You Here,' a gorgeously personal love song written in the midst of loss."
Uncut (magazine) (p.34) - Ranked #37 in Uncut's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2010" -- "[W]ith stronger songs, more artful arrangements and -- tragically -- new emotional heft."
Audio Mixer: Tom Elmhirst.
Recording information: 600 Feet, Hebden Bridge; Denzel Oscar Studio, Leeds; Glenwood Place Studios, Burbank, CA; Limefield Studio, Manchester; RNCM, Manchester; St. Margaret's Church, Leeds; Warren House Farm, Yorkshire.
Photographer: Tierney Gearon.
After selling four million copies of her debut album, an effort filled with her precious brand of neo-soul and the uplifting hit "Put Your Records On," singer/songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae lost her husband Jason Rae suddenly and took two years off to grieve and recover before returning with her second effort, The Sea. On the album's opener "Are You Here," lyrics like "Wait till you see those eyes" and "He'll kiss you make you feel sixteen" suggest she's just fallen in love, but the fascinating idea behind The Sea is that it never explains itself, even if there's a new richness in Rae's soft and oh-so-tender voice that suggests something has changed deep inside. As such, the song's "What's it even mean?" question could be the beginning of a love affair or a tragedy, but the following "I'd Do It All Again" is even trickier, as post-argument lyrics written before her husband's tragic loss ("You're searching for something I know/Won't make you happy") take on new meaning . Further confusing the matter, throughout the album the singer speaks of her love in the present tense. Then there are the numbers that come from left field, like the slithering, funky "The Blackest Lilly," which struts like a sexy Rolling Stones song while pulling inspiration from Philadelphia's neo-soul party, the Black Lily. It comes to a moving end with the title track, a masterful piece that looks back through generations of loss and the majestic ocean of time that "Breaks everything/Crushes everything/Cleans everything." If it all seems incongruous, so is the recovery process Rae must face, and the album's cycle of mourning, returning to work, aching, fondly reminiscing, yearning, and then back again won't be unfamiliar to anyone who has lost someone close. It doesn't offer any answers, but The Sea is a testament to Rae's artistic growth as it provides comfort to those left on the wistful side of eternal love, and insight to those who are not. ~ David Jeffries