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BLACK RAINBOWS

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Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement and Your California Privacy Rights. The softer turns on Black Rainbows feel nearest to Rae’s earlier material, but those, too, subvert expectations.

Though Rae had outfitted her previous record, 2016’s The Heart Speaks in Whispers, with some synthy touches, those songs still felt oriented around radio-friendly structures.

She purrs about the perils of beauty standards on “He Will Follow You With His Eyes” before she drops the dreamy façade and celebrates her Black skin, her favorite lipstick, and her kinky hair over an electronic morass. The young ensemble garnered attention from the alt-rock heavy hitter Roadrunner Records but the deal fell through, an industry heartbreak that nonetheless kept Rae pursuing music. Jordan Bassett of NME remarked that the album "swings from crunching glam-punk to skronking experimental jazz that wouldn't sound out of place on David Bowie's Blackstar. There, she encountered a striking 1954 snapshot of Audrey Smaltz, then a 17-year-old pageant winner posing with a grin on the back of a fire truck.

They tried to eviscerate you/Hide behind the curtain/Make you forget your name,” she howls, wrapping imagery of censored photographs in barbed-wire guitar lines and a pummeling rhythm. For the first time in her solo catalog, Black Rainbows strikes directly at those formative tastes; Rae indulges the affections of her younger self without succumbing to cheap pastiche. Next, a smart sequencing of mostly great songs, including the astonishing He Will Follow You With His Eyes, a coquettish, jazzy number that transmutes into something wild and magical as she blankly intones lines such as “my black hair kinking, my black skin gleaming” while the song disintegrates around her. Pitchfork may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. The song is Rae’s imagining of Jacobs hiding in an attic near the plantation from which she’d escaped, where she could watch her still-enslaved children in secret from a hole in the wall of her hiding place.The stunning “Peach Velvet Sky,” meanwhile, is a sparkling and bittersweet ballad inspired by Harriet Jacobs, author of the 1861 book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Black Rainbows received a score of 91 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic based on seven critics' reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".

Shout-singing about her young heroine amid peppy hand-claps, Rae sounds like a cheerleader for the types of girls who need one: “Beauty is in her possession,” she sings, “and she rides, rides, rides. Record Collector 's John Earls wrote that Black Rainbows "magnificently roars around garage rock, jazz and even, on Erasure, Black Flag hardcore", concluding that "although Bailey Rae is hardly prolific – this is just her fourth album – she's worth the wait". Rae has spoken about a personal metamorphosis inspired by a 2017 visit to the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago, a sprawling archive of Black life piloted by multi-disciplinary artist Theaster Gates.

Later, Rae splits the difference between Eartha Kitt and Kate Bush in the smoky closing track “Before the Throne of the Invisible God,” with chimes ringing among soft woodwind curlicues. With ferocious energy and clear-eyed confidence, it’s as though Rae is introducing herself all over again. Rae immersed herself further in Stony Island’s collection of “Negrobilia,” absorbing the harrowing narratives of abuse and indignity that she contemplates in “Erasure. Put It Down” is Black Rainbows’ most dynamic piece, opening with an elegant string intro and the sound of gasping, almost choking breath. The first two songs are a sluggish entry point to the Bailey Rae renaissance, before the album explodes with post-punky Erasure, its transgressive fury a pure catharsis mediated through her distorted voice.

Seventeen years later, Rae has taken a sharp and surprising turn toward unabashed rock music with her scuzzy, guitar-powered new album, Black Rainbows. In moments like these, Black Rainbows feels like far more than the result of a pivotal museum trip or old teenage dreams revisited. Even better is closer Before the Throne of the Invisible God, on which, metamorphosis complete, she becomes an east Pennine Alice Coltrane. Anyone in the vicinity of a radio around 2006 heard “ Put Your Records On,” Corinne Bailey Rae’s warm ode to feeling relaxed and fulfilled in the moment. Smaltz herself went on to work at Ebony Fashion Fair and establish a lifetime presence in the fashion world: Like Rae, her story is one of gutsy self-determination.It’s loud, intense, and raw, a memorial to the unhealed historical wrongs that sit in the background of daily life. In parallel with the themes of deliverance that Rae presents throughout the album, “Peach Velvet Sky” honors a life spent working toward freedom around challenges that never seem to sleep. In these songs, Rae races through a surprising range of emotions—glee, doubt, pride, anger, grief, and peace—but her nimble ushering prevents any whiplash.

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