Speak a Little Louder

Diane Birch's second album trades up the rootsy comfort food of her debut for something more sophisticated and atmospheric – think early Kate Bush, or maybe Carly Simon put on dry ice. What Birch's voice can't handle alone is carried by her arrangements, which occasionally get lost in the smoke and mirrors of so-called good taste. Birch doesn't sound quite like Adele or Feist, but she's probably aware of both, and here she joins the ranks of adult-contemporary singers for a new generation, which, when it comes to music, at least, likes to relax more or less the same way the old one did. "It's hard to be pretty in pain," she sings. You'd never know it by how poised she sounds.

From The Archives Issue 1195: November 7, 2013