On Weird Faith, Madi Diaz Takes a Victory Lap
The Nashville singer-songwriter's sixth album feels like a purposeful underlining of her recent successes, and a level up in every regard.Music Reviews Madi Diaz
Sometimes, it feels like an act of mind-reading to listen to a Madi Diaz song. Enticing, sure, but also a bit intrusive. The Nashville singer-songwriter’s work is stylized but diaristic, often a blustery internal monologue with little else done to dress it up. Whether she’s acknowledging her insecurities, talking herself down from a state of unease or just letting herself crumble, it can feel like, maybe, you aren’t supposed to have heard it. However, it is exactly that kind of outpouring that gives her songs their resonance in the first place. Diaz’s 2021 album, History of a Feeling, was quiet only at face-value; to call it “sparse” doesn’t do it justice. All the drama one could pack into instrumentation through washes of strings or booming percussion was instead channeled into Diaz’s clarion voice; the band accompanying her felt like a second thought on songs like “Man in Me” or “Resentment.”
History of a Feeling became the most successful project of Diaz’s career to date. After dropping out of Berklee in 2007, she became the kind of music industry figure that rarely breaks out in their own right, but works constantly behind the scenes. Since getting her breakthrough, though, she’s toured with Waxahatchee, Angel Olsen and Harry Styles. Styles, in particular, was so impressed by Diaz that she joined his touring band. She has the sort of industry pedigree where people in Nashville treat her like their little secret, yet she also sits within the confines of indie darling status. How often does someone whose voice is on the soundtrack for Far Cry 5 find themselves so firmly in the catbird seat?
A few years later, Madi Diaz has returned with her sixth studio album and second for ANTI-, Weird Faith. This is an album that feels like a purposeful underlining of her recent successes. If History of a Feeling was the mess of emotions, Weird Faith is the cool-headed exhale. Uplifted by healthier relationships and a hopeful outlook, Diaz stands in her healing. There is, however, a tinge of anxiety that never seems to leave her. The opener, “Same Risk,” is a powerful, vulnerable negotiation with a partner about the inherent power dynamic between them. She seeks reassurance; her nervous energy is palpable: “Do you think this could ruin your life? / Cause I can see it ruining mine,” she sings.
Just a few songs later she offers up what may as well be a more grown-up rebuttal to History of a Feeling’s “Think of Me.” That song was marked by the feeling of betrayal and hurt, venom sprayed at a cheating ex and his new partner. Here, on “Girlfriend,” Diaz instead extends grace—addressing her new boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, she is honest about the insecurities she feels and empathizes with this woman’s pain. Musically, “Girlfriend” and “Same Risk” highlight the way that Weird Faith deviates ever so slightly from Diaz’s winning formula. The focus remains squarely on her, but there are new, more considered dynamic changes. Songs reach higher, more cathartic heights, but they do so without a gradual build. Instead, the peak is sudden; they seem to float effortlessly off the ground.
Weird Faith is not only an album trying to bolster Diaz’s success; it often feels like it’s trying to expand on it, as she makes clear attempts at widening her reach. The indie-pop stunner “Everything Almost” is unique within Diaz’s catalog, featuring a propulsive chorus and clear hook. It would feel right at home on a playlist sandwiched between Julia Jacklin’s “Pressure To Party” and Phoebe Bridgers’ “Kyoto.” Its verses hit once again on her anxieties, seeing her work through fantasies in a stream of consciousness. Diaz sings about her parents and dreams about how she would manage if she were pregnant, hoping she’s able to have everything she wants without sacrifice. “Everything Almost” is a shrewd choice for Diaz—a big, hooky song like this is a great way to lure people in. Her music is often revelatory, but its interiority can make it hard to engage with it casually.
Elsewhere, Diaz highlights her newfound co-signs. She’s no stranger to a deserved boastful collaboration, having released a companion EP—Same History, New Feelings—to History of a Feeling, with guest spots like Waxahatchee and Courtney Marie Andrews. Here, Kacey Musgraves takes a verse on “Don’t Do Me Good.” Tender and soulful, the song is an ode to the person you keep going back to, despite knowing it isn’t a nourishing relationship. The two work well together, and Musgraves feels like an interesting parallel for Diaz—another artist who, once a creature of Nashville, has broken out with her own music that doesn’t fit comfortably into Music City’s standard sounds. Weird Faith is a level up in every regard for Madi Diaz, and it’s hard to see a world where it doesn’t accomplish the goal of raising her profile. Though she quotes her dad in “Everything Almost” as saying “You can have everything, just not at the same time,” she rejects that premise in every heartfelt note.
Watch Madi Diaz perform “Every Time I Reach Out” at Codfish Hollow Barn in Maquoketa, Iowa in 2011 below.
Eric Bennett is a music critic in Philadelphia with bylines at Pitchfork, Post-Trash and The Alternative. They are also a co-host of Endless Scroll, a weekly podcast covering the intersection of music and internet culture. You can follow them on Twitter @violet_by_hole.