Album Review: Alela Diane – Looking Glass

Nevada's soft-sung folk hero returns with a stirring eighth album that swoons into the winter sun

For an album mostly written in the middle of a storm, Looking Glass floats like a cool breeze. Picking up where 2018’s Cusp left off, Alela Diane continues to strum the story of her life through some of its most tumultuous and beautiful moments – understated indie folk sang through a dreamy haze of memory. 

And through a big pelt of rain too. ‘Paloma’ and ‘Howling Wind’ open with two different extreme weather events – one burning down the Pacific Northwest, another blacking out the power in Mexico – but both drag their drama out into the sunshine. “Oh the days are so thick and so cruel, I am losing myself” she sings in a shimmer, smiling down the storm. 

Alela Diane - Paloma (Official Live Session)

There are bigger storms to come, too. First on ‘Dream A River’, remembering the time Diane found out her childhood home was being sold, opening up old wounds from her parents’ divorce that she first closed up on The Pirate’s Gospel. Then comes ‘Camellia’, the broken heart of the album, revisiting the near-death experience during the birth of Diane’s daughter that cut the deepest on Cusp

“I was white as a cotton sheet / in a white room in a white bed / and I saw myself in the white lights / Dangling there by a small thread”. Colours flicker through the track’s poetry as a choral backing raises the song to a hymnal – everything Diane said on her last album scrunched back up in a tight fist of feeling. 

Produced by Tucker Martine of My Morning Jacket, and featuring guest spots from Carl Broemel, deeper alt-rock roots give Diane’s stripped back Americana new heft and reach here. A lot of the credit belongs to the strings too, with ‘Of Love’ soaring with big-room orchestral warmth alongside the whispering harp of ‘Mother’s Arms’. By the time ‘Another Dream’ closes the album on a heavy-lidded lullaby, Looking Glass feels like an embrace that doesn’t let go. 

Now eight albums and two decades into her songbook, Alela Diane has arguably written the best chapter of her career. Perfect for weathering the storms of winter without actually having to go outside. 

Find tickets for Alela Diane’s February 2023 show at Union Chapel here