It could be a worthy thing to recall Diane Birch. Her 2009 debut titled Bible Belt seemed like a decent effort, sandwiched in that female adult pop category that safely touches upon the likes of Adele or even Norah Jones. Truth be told, if that’s where you sit on the Pandora station algorithm, it’s an arduous task to prove that there might be more to your music than plain café pop.
Fast forward to 2013 and Ms. Birch has resurfaced with Speak A Little Louder. There’s something about this release that rouses a cause for comment. While Ms. Birch always erred on the retro sound of things, she’s channeling a different musical landscape now, particularly one that pays homage to the 1970’s. Her opener, “Speak A Little Louder” touches the later work of Dusty Springfield, Ms. Birch’s voice hitting those haunting notes that are iconic of the blue-eyed soul singer. “Lighthouse”, the second track, almost seems like a Stevie Nicks B-Side that never made it on a Fleetwood Mac record due to artistic differences. Comparisons aside, it’s an adrenaline-inducing number that allows Ms. Birch’s vocals to exhibit a tenacity that takes you by surprise.
Every artist must carry in their music arsenal an awe-inspiring number. For Ms. Birch, this song is “All The Love You’ve Got”. It possesses melodies, lyrics, and a unique arrangement that is complicated with detail, yet seems so easy on the ears. It is a great example of life imitating art, evoking those sharp unresolved feelings of regret and remorse towards a lover. “Love and War” follows a very strong 1970’s rubric. It’s the kind of song that most artists would never record today. It’s production harks to a time before CDs were invented, having sparse moments of disco, perfectly enveloped with a musical arrangement that relies heavily on guitars and Ms. Birch’s reedy vocals.
Not every track on Speak A Little Louder is worthy of admiration. However, the album remains a testament to an artist who likes to experiment and do something different, further fine tuning her musical modus operandi.