Cusp is such a great word isn’t it? One that glides just the right way between tooth and lip, satisfying to both say and hear while somehow delivering its own meaning.
That sort of satisfaction is exactly what Alela Diane brings on her Cusp, an album of maternal musing that rest on their own cusp of perfection. Diane has always been one of the world’s more underrated songwriters, but it’d be hard to argue against her talent as she delivers her finest album since 2009’s To Be Still.
Take the opening song Albatross for example. A go-to concept for sure, but in the hands of Alela Diane it becomes a song with layered intimacy. Piano meets string meets a fantastic little melody to create the sort of world she’s always been great at: pastoral, organic, and rooted in human experience. Threshold too is punctuated with flourishes of flute that camouflage its very real concerns. “Do you see my age, or will I always look the same to you?” asks Diane, blanketed by the most silken arrangement.
Whether it’s the very real and heartbreaking political take on Emigre or her more introspective look at the mother-daughter relationship on Never Easy, it’s clear that Alela Diane has never had more to say with her brand of quiet urgency. Still she twirls through the majesty of her own instrumentation, finding hope in the aptly-named Buoyant, and delivers a rounded record that might just stand up as a career best. This is an album we’re painfully in love with; seek it out and never let it go.