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BLACK RAINBOWS

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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. With ferocious energy and clear-eyed confidence, it’s as though Rae is introducing herself all over again.

Put It Down” is Black Rainbows’ most dynamic piece, opening with an elegant string intro and the sound of gasping, almost choking breath.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. 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. Seventeen years later, Rae has taken a sharp and surprising turn toward unabashed rock music with her scuzzy, guitar-powered new album, Black Rainbows. It’s loud, intense, and raw, a memorial to the unhealed historical wrongs that sit in the background of daily life.

Black Rainbows received a score of 91 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic based on seven critics' reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". 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.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. Even better is closer Before the Throne of the Invisible God, on which, metamorphosis complete, she becomes an east Pennine Alice Coltrane.

In moments like these, Black Rainbows feels like far more than the result of a pivotal museum trip or old teenage dreams revisited. 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.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. It tumbles into a club-adjacent beat, with Rae singing as though she were shouting over the din of the dancefloor. 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.

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