Alela Diane's sophomore effort is full of acoustic-driven, contemplative songs.
A native of the free-spirited, nature-loving Nevada City, CA, scene that fostered the early career of Joanna Newsom, Alela Diane exemplifies a singularly West Coast perspective and lifestyle. The contemplative, acoustic-driven songs on her sophomore effort, To Be Still, are the sweetly subtle fruit of long stretches of isolated cabin dwelling in Redwood territory. The album’s insular country rock has nothing in common with the radio-friendly music of pop-centric Nashville, and each track on the album is organic and lovingly crafted, denoting maturation after the bare-bones arrangements of her first release, The Pirate’s Gospel. Diane partially recorded the album in her father’s studio, and the mini-orchestra of backing instruments and harmony vocals never outshine her composed-yet-emotive voice, which swoons, swoops, and trills, sharing the mournful timbre of the violin on 'White As Diamonds' and matching the slow dive of the title track. Deliciously cryptic story-songs ('The Alder Trees,' 'Lady Divine') abound, and love and loss mesh with odes to nature ('Dry Grass and Shadows,' 'Every Path') that speak of a soul whose musical motives are as crystal clear and refreshingly distinctive as her pretty voice.