Other Music *heart* Alela Diane!

December 18, 2006

The good people at New York's / the planet's premier independent record store, Other Music, have given Alela a glowing review in this week's installment of their crazy awesome email newsletter. OM's Hartley Goldstein pretty much says everything we've been wanting to say about this record, but better. Seriously, we couldn't agree more. Here's the full text of the review:

I know we're all supposed to be over freak folk by now. If anything, once a genre gets a whole three-page spread in the Sunday Times it might be time to jump ship. And hell, that article ran over a year ago. Indie labels seem to be doing aesthetic 360's, signing everyone in sight with a beard and a bandana. Reissues are no longer out of the question. Even Joanna Newsom, whose Ys is one of the best "freak folk" records of 2006, has routinely denounced the term in just about every single one of her so many interviews of late. The girl has even started to namedrop Randy Newman as her biggest influence, and we all know that the freakiest thing about Randy was the soundtrack to Toy Story 2.

So if anything were actually possible to hinder Alela Diane's stunningly beautiful debut, The Pirate's Gospel, it's the timing. Had Gospel come out three years ago, Alela would be as big as Ms. Newsom (her very good also-Nevada City, California hailing friend), and certainly as respected. Gospel is yet another fully-formed new-folk classic. And it is a classic. Homegrown. Patchwork. Arrestingly intimate. Brazenly playful. Immaculately arranged. It's as good as Milk-Eyed Mender, or Rejoicing in the Hands. In fact, Gospel, is ever so slightly more accessible than either of those records; Alela's lyrics are more direct, her hooks are sharper. Sometimes a whole song is just a refrain and one gets the distinct impression that Alela's biggest influences are spirituals. She's into sing-a-longs, and it's no surprise that some of the most gorgeous moments on all of Gospel are when chorus' of children, or groggy baritone booming men, or just about anyone else in the room rejoices in Alela's…er…chorus' (see: the scene-stealing title track). Sometimes that means just whistling ("Foreign Tongue"), sometimes that means clapping your hands or singing soulful gibberish like "o-we-o" ("The Pirates Gospel") or "clickity, click, click, clack" ("Clickity Clack"), and sometimes it means just plain blissfully singing-a-long as her children's meta-chorus wonderfully does on "Pieces of String." It's all there.

And if Diane comes off sounding a little like Devendra from time to time, mourning over her "tired, tired feet" in a wounded multi-tracked brass howl on the album's opener "Tired Feet," it's only cause she, like Devendra, has studied the late Karen Dalton like a Bible. Alela even hints as much on the song's gauzy refrain -- she coos, "I know that here I've sung before / Here I've sung before." And if Gospel is any proof at all, Alela will be singing here before for a very, very long time to come. Best New Artist of '07?