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If you make records for a living, one of your primary responsibilities — if not the primary responsibility — is to make sure your next record is as good or better than your last record.
With the release of Stronger Than You Know, singer-songwriter Rachel Beck has accomplished what those of us who applauded her first record hoped she would do.
She came out on top.
With just six songs, her sophomore album may be a little short in terms of length, but the calibre of the material on this record certainly makes up for its brevity. Beck’s growth both as a songwriter and as a performer in the two years since her first record came out is clear and it is impressive.
A beautifully crafted electronic pop record with compelling rhythms, layers of piano and synthesizers and dreamy vocals that wash over you wave after wave, Stronger Than You Know is one of those records you just leave on replay.
- Reckless Heart, the lead single from Rachel Beck’s self-titled debut album hit No. 1 on the CBC Music Top 20 Chart in 2018, earning Beck a SOCAN #1 Award.
- Her touring highlights include performing for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, appearing twice at the legendary Stan Rogers Folk Festival and opening the 2019 ECMA Gala Awards Show.
Helmed by award-winning producer Daniel Ledwell at his Echo Lake studio in Nova Scotia, the new record is described as a celebration of strength and resilience, a gentle call to action, to stand up, to speak out, to be present and to love fiercely.
It is all of that and more, laid out over Beck’s haunting piano melodies and given wing by her often ethereal vocal delivery which more than a few times during tracks like Things I Should Keep and Tonight – my two favourite tracks on the record — made me think of Scottish chanteuse Annie Lennox.
Speaking for herself, Beck had this to say about the record,
"This record is a celebration of strength – the strength it takes to be a woman, a partner, a parent, a protector of the earth. There is a deliberate absence of retrospection: the songs live in the present and look to the future with optimism, gentleness and love."
This is a record with a heart, a soul and a conscience, as evidenced by these lyrics from Stronger Than You Know:
When the forest dreams, she dreams in colour
Visions from our great-grandmothers
Stories painted in the setting sun
When the forest sings, she sings of peace
A gentle whisper through the leaves
Ancient songs of healing, songs of love
Oh, she pulls me close
And whispers to my soul
Just breathe in and let it go
You’re stronger than you know
Beck’s first record earned her Music P.E.I. awards for pop recording of the year and new artist of the year, as well as ECMA nominations for pop recording of the year and rising star recording of the year.
I see multiple award nominations for Beck for this record as well.
Choice offerings on this set include Stronger Than You Know, Warrior, Things I Should Keep and Tonight.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Doug Gallant is a freelance writer and well-known connoisseur of a wide variety of music. His On Track column will appear in The Guardian every second Thursday. To comment on what he has to say or to offer suggestions for future reviews, email him at [email protected].