After many years of waiting, fans of Diane Birch will be happy to know that she’s finally released a new-full length album.

However, long-term fans may be surprised by what they hear on Speak a Little Louder, released this fall. Surprises can be good, though, and both those who have loved Birch for a while and those new to her scene will be captivated by this 30-year-old’s powerful voice.

Her Sophomore Release

Speak a Little Louder is the follow-up to the 2009 release Bible Belt. Her debut album was favorably received by critics, and while this new one has also been acclaimed, it’s been noted most of all as a significant departure from her original work.

The general consensus is that the four years between albums gave time for Birch to add a new layer of depth and maturity to her work. The new album is darker and deeper, but also has more of a pop-rock vibe to it. With her sophomore release, she seems to have come into her own as an artist.

The songs on Speak a Little Louder cover a range of styles, but lean heavily on Birch’s strong vocals. Her piano mastery is also featured on this album, but is far from the sole instrument in this album whose orchestration runs the gamut.

Birch has been compared to a variety of artists, including Adele, Carly Simon and Fleetwood Mac, but although you can hear their influences in her work, she has a style all her own. Unfortunately, her voice is stronger than her lyrics, which often feel rather generic. However, even if some of the lines fall flat, there’s enough to enjoy about Birch’s style to make this album one worth checking out.

More Relationships Than Religion

Birch is the daughter of a Seventh-Day Adventist minister who took his young family with him as he preached around the world. Her upbringing and the religious-sounding title of her first album might lead you expect devout themes throughout her work.

But don’t go into this album expecting Birch to be Christian artist. The song “Rise Up” on Bible Belt made it clear she wants to separate herself from her parents’ views: “My mama tells me I won’t get through the pearly gates, ‘Cause I ain’t sorry for my sins and all my mistakes.”

On Speak a Little Louder, the track “Lighthouse” could be interpreted as having religious themes. For example, the lines, “You are a lighthouse, a lighthouse in the dark. You are a lighthouse, Callin’ out, callin’ out,” are reminiscent of Psalm 43:3, which says, “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.” God is not directly mentioned in the song, though, and the lyrics really could be interpreted a number of ways.

The overwhelming theme of this album is relationships. More specifically, many of the songs, such as “Frozen Over,” “Tell Me Tomorrow” and “All the Love You Got,” are about the end of relationships. In the time between her two albums, Birch’s long-term relationship ended, and her father passed away, so it’s not surprising to see themes of loss reflected here.

A Word of Warning

In fact, not only does Speak a Little Louder not fall into the Gospel music category, but it comes with an “Explicit” label, thanks to the name and lyrics of one track. Of the 11 songs on the album, only one has a language issue, but if you guard what your kids (or you) listen to, you’ll want to skip over that track or steer clear of the album altogether.

Speak a Little Louder was released by S-Curve Records in October 2013. A deluxe version, featuring five additional songs, is also available. Full-length previews of all 16 tracks are available on Birch’s website.

If you’re ready to add a refreshing new female voice to add to your music collection, Speak a Little Louder may be just the thing you’re looking for.

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