Love Will Be Reborn – Martha Wainwright – Album Review
by Cathy Brown
Martha Wainwright’s songwriting has always been as blunt as it is emotional, and she has never shied away from dealing with the personal, however painful, in her music. Love Will be Reborn is her first album since 2016’s Goodnight City and her first album of all-original material in almost 10 years.
This time, the focus is not on her relationships with her family but deals with her divorce after a decade of marriage, a bitter custody battle and the tentative steps towards new love. It’s fertile subject matter and Wainwright harnesses that tenacious yet vulnerable vocal ability of hers to extract something captivating from all her pain.
Despite the difficult subject matter, Love Will be Reborn is an album suffused in a sense of hope and a warm atmosphere. Ably produced by Pierre Marchand, who worked with brother Rufus on his seminal album Poses, Love Will be Reborn feels like the work of a singer – and a songwriter – coming into her own.
Opener Middle of the Lake showcases Wainwright’s vocal to perfection, letting her impressive range stalk over the rambling arrangement and muddy guitar. The title track is an encapsulation of the themes played out on the rest of the album, that idea of hope coming from despair. ‘There is love in every part of me, I know/ But the key has fallen deep into the snow / When the spring comes I will find it, and unlock my heart to unwind it.’ Layered guitar lines and a driving bass generate an anthemic atmosphere that Wainwright matches with a swaggering vocal turn.
This rock-tinged vibe continues on the pulsing, uplifting sound of Hole in my Heart, which could give Springsteen a run for his money, while the melodic Sometimes channels her anger into an almost perfect pop tune. Rainbow is driven by a darker sound that mirrors the harsh lyrics. ‘Why do I have to go on?’ she wails, ‘for the kids and the neighbours’ and at times the sheer range of her voice makes you think there are two different vocalists within the one song.
That McGarrigle/ Wainwright folk vibe is never far away, particularly on songs like Getting Older which channels Wainwright’s fear of aging through rough musical edges and a striking clarity of vocal register. Justice embraces that same loose warmth and the vocal gymnastics are wisely pared back to create and affecting piano-led sound.
The touching Report Card, with its intimate vocals and mellow slide guitar, is a painful ode to letting your children go, barely disguising the despair Wainwright feels at not being with her son. She gives everything on the hard-hitting Body and Soul, sounding at times not unlike Tina Turner, with her blistering cries ‘I want to let go, from my body and soul’.
Ultimately, the strength of Love Will be Reborn lies in Wainwright’s impressive, often breath-taking vocal delivery. Her lyrics are written with passion and that passion drives the lyrics and that in turn connects her with the listener. She is a fearless singer, someone who doesn’t hold back, but knows exactly how to control what she is doing. Closing track Falaise de Malaise is sung in both French and English and is a beautifully layered song, piano arpeggios accompanying a quieter vocal, which proves that she is at her most powerful when she is restrained.
Love Will Be Reborn feels like a rebirth for Wainwright. This is an unsparing yet uplifting album of distinct and striking songs which showcase that voice and that charisma to absolute perfection.