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.
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.