Alela Diane
Cusp


3.8
excellent

Review

by Atari STAFF
February 25th, 2018 | 11 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A grower if there ever was one, "Cusp" is a personal display of life’s most fragile moments.

On surface level, Cusp is a nice enough album -- one held together with singing strings and hushed pianos. It’s breezy and inoffensive background music that seems to sort of fizzle out as it progresses. Some songs are obvious standouts here; the affecting croon of “Albatross” comes to mind, but it feels a bit sleep-heavy at times. The perceived problem, then, isn’t how it sounds (it’s quite pretty) but rather, in Cusp's ability to keep the listener engaged throughout. At least, that was my first impression. Patience is a virtue, friends.

Once you peel away the album’s outer skin, you’ll find an album that’s more an act of therapy than a typical release for the masses. Diane recently witnessed the miracle of childbirth firsthand – an experience many of us long for – but it almost cost her life. Cusp is a response to this event: a collection of quiet melodies meant to capture these fragile life moments. It’s a stark reminder that we’re all on a very thin line – a cusp, so to speak – between life and death. Make no mistake: she captures these moments with a burning passion. On “Émigré” she eases us in with gentle strings among seabirds and beaches, before thrusting us into the darkest corner of her subconscious:

One by one, the children have grown silent. From their mothers’ arms, they float away. The roaring sea will wash our quiet bodies upon the foreign shore, but our souls with find a way.

Lyrics like these could only be conjured up within Diane’s inner turmoil -- and it’s in these moments of conflict where she really shines. Which brings us to “So Tired,” one of the album’s most poignant tracks. As she spills her guts, so tired of being on stage/so tired of traveling/so tired of worrying, the pain is apparent the moment the words escape her lips. Cusp is a slow-burner if there ever was one, but not without its fair share of initial highlights. The harmonious “oooooooohhhhs” of “Ether & Wood” prove simply irresistible, flaunting Diane’s heavenly singing over the strongest chorus on Cusp. It’s a song that exudes an unmistakable sense of victory as the songwriter sheds her past life: I walked through the house we built/saw the life I left behind/Ivory paint cracked and peeled on the walls/the hydrangea and red rose strangled by vines. This rich imagery – of saying goodbye to your past life and welcoming change – is one of the album’s most triumphant moments. It’s a feel-good track about overcoming these ties that bind us to our former ways.

Undoubtedly, Cusp won me over with its concept. But I can’t help that “Ether & Wood” is basically this year’s “Richard” for me; the gentle guitar twang over that soaring chorus gets me every damn time. Not every song carries as much passion, but Diane’s latest is a fine representation of her ability as a songwriter. During the most subdued moments, the lyrics due the heavy lifting with sparingly used pianos and cellos. Some patience is required, but if you embrace the slow burn, Cusp will slowly reveal itself to you; the bright harmonies covering Diane’s darkest lyrics will come crumbling down. And when that happens, all you can do is listen - in awe of the beauty born from personal pain.



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user ratings (10)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2018


23927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

on spotify and apple music for those interested. below are 2 standout tracks



Ether & Wood

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEX6xp8yREo

Émigré

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NWAC-PmEVo

Ishysez
February 25th 2018


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yep it's good

Dewinged
February 26th 2018


12991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just noticed this review! Totally passed me by.



Happy that you covered it Atari, the album is great.

Digging: Kaelan Mikla - Not Eftir Not

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2018


23927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Cheers man



Yeah this will prolly pass by people, but it has some of my absolute favorite tracks of the year so felt compelled to write something. Hard to sell a grower, but that’s what this was for me. Didn’t even realize how amazing “So Tired” was on my first few listens

Dewinged
February 26th 2018


12991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I have to revisit, because this kind of folk lits me less than the dark(isg) stuff of Johanna Warren, but it's still chill.

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2018


2649 Comments


"But I can’t help that “Ether & Wood” is basically this year’s “Richard” for me." Sold! Fantastic work, Atari. There's something so special about the intermingling of her voice and the guitars, a weird and beautiful fluttering.

Digging: Lil Zubin - Heavy Down Pour

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2018


23927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Cheers Blush, glad u seem to enjoy her so far! It’s nice to be able to just mention “Richard” and people here know what I’m taking about :] Tho I guess I can’t seem to shut the hell up about that song lol



Thought this review might be a bit too wordy haha, but prolly gonna take a break from the whole singer-songwriter thing next time regardless

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2018


2649 Comments


I don't think it was too wordy, I appreciate your style a lot: very, very readable, but also extremely thoughtful. Giving this a listen now.

TwigTW
March 6th 2018


3525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"...sparingly used pianos and cellos. Some patience is required, but if you embrace the slow burn, Cusp will slowly reveal itself to you; "



Couldn't agree more--the album is too simple and unhurried to jump out and grab you, but it is a beauty.

Digging: The Bathers - Sunpowder

davemcgeown
March 7th 2018


1 Comments


what's the "Richard" song you mention?“Ether & Wood” is great

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2018


23927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

here you go

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jN1BfSLbzg



cheers Twig, glad you dig it



@Blush, well thanks for the kind words sir. Did this resonate with you at all?







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