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Monday, February 23rd, 2009

White As Diamonds

Review of Alela Diane's To Be Still and Soundscapes in-store

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhat had been forecast as just some light snow on Saturday evening blew into town as more of a proper storm, apparently on the exact same route that Alela Diane was taking en route from Detroit and thus delaying her in-store performance at Soundscapes by nearly an hour.

Considering that she had to get to the Horseshoe to soundcheck for her sold-out show supporting Blitzen Trapper, it would have been understandable if she’d bailed entirely but sending her band ahead to the venue, she still made it to the shop to perform for a crowd that’d thinned only a little from the scheduled start time – a testament, perhaps, to how much people wanted to see her perform in such an intimate environment.

Chances are they’d been won over by her just-released and critically acclaimed sophomore album, To Be Still. And it’s not hard to see why – it’s a beautifully constructed contemporary folk record, with Diane’s evocative songwriting perfectly supported by her clear, strong voice – it’s not a showy instrument, but one which lilts and yodels in exactly the right spots to offer emotional emphasis to the words. Diane is then surrounded by just the right amount of accompaniment – fingerpicked guitar, banjo, fiddle, steel, gentle percussion – to fill things out without ever threatening to overpower. It’s a balance that’s harder to achieve than you might think, but To Be Still gets it just right.

But stripped of that backing as Diane was at the in-store, she still impresses. Her voice is much more powerful than you might expect and has a bit of a rawer edge that’s not as evident on record, and across a brief set – maybe 20 minutes – she was mesmerizing. At the end of it, she thanked us for sticking around and we thanked her for making it out. Everybody wins.

MPR has a streaming session with Alela Diane.

Photos: Alela Diane @ Soundscapes – February 21, 2009
MP3: Alela Diane – “White As Diamonds”
Video: Alela Diane – “White As Diamonds”
MySpace: Alela Diane

I forgot to post up an MP3 from the new Hylozoists record L’Ile de Sept Villes when I wrote up their Soundscapes in-store a couple weeks back. Consider that rectified. And check out an interview with the band at Chart.

MP3: The Hylozoists – “Bras d’Or Lakes”

And the next Soundscapes in-store will be with Gentleman Reg – that’s tomorrow night at 6PM and marks the release of his new album Jet Black, which is currently streaming at his MySpace. He also plays the Horseshoe on March 12 as part of CMW. The Queen’s Journal has a conversation with Reg.

MP3: Gentleman Reg – “We’re in a Thunderstorm”
Stream: Gentleman Reg / Jet Black

Reg also makes a brief cameo in the new video from Brendan Canning, which in which he channels his inner Tony Manero in the streets of Kensington. Pretty hilarious stuff.

Video: Brendan Canning – “Love Is New”

Daytrotter is featuring a downloadable session with The Acorn.

Pitchfork and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle talk to Grizzly Bear about their forthcoming album Veckatimest, due May 26.

M Ward talks to Spinner and The Philadelphia Inquirer about new record Hold Time.

Colin Meloy discusses The Decemberists’ pre-tour preparation with Billboard. Their shows will consist of one set comprising their new record Hazards Of Love (out March 24) in its entirety and in sequence and another set of older material.

Jenn Grant discusses new album Echoes with Chart. She plays the Reverb at midnight on March 14 as part of CMW.

Blurt has an extended feature on Jenny Lewis.

The New York Times and San Jose Mercury have features on and MPR a session with Antony & The Johnsons.

The Milwaukee Decider talks to Patterson Hood about current goings-on in Drive-By Truckers-land.

NPR welcomes DeVotchKa to the World Cafe for a session.

Fever Ray, aka Karin Dreijer Andersson. the she-half of Swedish electro duo The Knife, will release her self-titled debut album on March 18 and will be in town at The Phoenix on May 25. She’s interviewed by Sentimentalist and Drowned In Sound.

Video: Fever Ray – “When I Grow Up”
Video: Fever Ray – “If I Had A Heart”

Bonnie Prince Billy warns fans to Beware on March 17, but should be in a more welcoming frame of mine when he plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on May 14. Advance tickets for that are $25.

By : Frank Yang at 8:09 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post4 Responses.
  1. scott says:

    Your Jenn Grant sentence above looks like a cut-and-paste error removed her name from it… just FYI.

  2. Frank Yang says:

    missed a closing quote in an anchor tag. thanks for the catch.

  3. Mike says:

    You wrote ‘frame on mine.’ Hope you meant it.

  4. paul says:

    yes, i was there…patiently waiting…thanks to the Soundscapes staff for the chocolate chip cookies!

    “To Be Still” probably my fav. album of 09/along with Timber Timbre and Bruce Peninsula…