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BLACK RAINBOWS

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Black Rainbows received a score of 91 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic based on seven critics' reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". 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. It’s loud, intense, and raw, a memorial to the unhealed historical wrongs that sit in the background of daily life. 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. 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.

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. Bailey Rae originally planned Black Rainbows as a side project, a freewheeling meditation on the history of Black experience she discovered at the Stony Island Arts Bank archive in Chicago. 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.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". 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. 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. In moments like these, Black Rainbows feels like far more than the result of a pivotal museum trip or old teenage dreams revisited. Bailey Rae stated that Black Rainbows was inspired by an exhibition on Black history by artist Theaster Gates at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago that she attended, which "summoned thoughts about slavery, spirituality, beauty, survival, hope and freedom".

With ferocious energy and clear-eyed confidence, it’s as though Rae is introducing herself all over again. 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. 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 tumbles into a club-adjacent beat, with Rae singing as though she were shouting over the din of the dancefloor.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. The softer turns on Black Rainbows feel nearest to Rae’s earlier material, but those, too, subvert expectations. Although just 45 minutes long, its audacious mix of rock, electronica, jazz and Afrofuturism forms an epic soundtrack narrating journeys to freedom.

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