Corinne Bailey Rae, "The Sea"

86 Billboard Rating

Grief isn't the only thing that runs deep through Corinne Bailey Rae's sophomore effort, "The Sea." In grappling with the sudden death of her husband in 2008, the U.K. singer/songwriter has crafted a remarkable set that includes influences from rock and jazz, rich instrumentation and lyrics that linger well beyond the first listen. But one needn't know the personal context of the album to appreciate it. The song "Are You Here" ripples with idyllic memories of love lost, as Rae sings over cymbals crashing into guitars. But fans of her sunnier 2006 self-titled debut will find plenty to smile about. The midtempo "Closer" oozes seduction, while "Paris Nights/New York Mornings" and "The Blackest Lily" are raucous, full-band celebrations. But even on those tracks it's clear that, as a lyricist and vocalist, Rae is in an entirely different place. Even so, "The Sea" offers plenty of long-term rewards.

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