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Sarah McLachlan – “Laws of Illusion” Review

Some artists can pound out album after album, year after year. Sarah McLachlan isn’t one of those artists at all and leaves generally about 4 to 5 years between releases. This makes each one highly anticipated so is “Laws of Illusion” worth the wait?

“Awakenings” opens the album in what is a new tone for Sarah of late with more uptempo rock. Delicate electric guitars, speedy percussion, melodic keyboard riffs and soaring vocals. However come the chorus’ out comes the grungier guitars for real impact in a way we’ve not really heard Sarah record before. It’s still definately a McLachlan song, but just with a pinch of difference to it and its great, especially the closing section.

“Illusions of Bliss” reminds me of the Surfacing album, or maybe more of how “Solace” would sound with a full deep band rendition. The interplay of the piano and guitars and the vocal ad-lib quirks make this a wistful and playful track even if the overall tone is quite bittersweet. Single “Loving You Is Easy” is delightfully cheery and upbeat, almost like a stadium anthem with its stomping beat and rousing codas and choruses. “Changes” is equally skippy with its cute theremin solo in the middle that sounds like a bird whistle. It’s these little nuances that really signal a change in Sarah’s more band efforts to something else that makes this album a bit more unique.

“Forgiveness” is the first piano led ballad on the album and is painstakingly beautiful and effortless. As the song continues to be layered and built up, it becomes one of the more simple songs on the album tune wise but also one of the most instantly accessable and is a good point to start newcomers off with. “Rivers of Love” is a second piano based track but is the most bluesy track on the album with distant wails of guitars and waltzing drums elevating the track to something that could quite easily be a show stopper live – a real stand out on the album.

“Love Come” is a great pop rock tune with echoing guitar harmonics leading the main melody over an acoustic pop number. The result, as ever, means a smooth as baby’s botty production and another easy to remember, hard to forget middle of the road anthem again! “Out of Tune” is another rock anthem that is one of the most straight forward songs on the album and sounds like its came straight from the “Fumbling Into Ecstacy” album, which is where a lot of the songs sound like they could fit in easily. “Heartbreak” rounds off this trilogy with gusto and a guitar sounding more suspiciously like a ukelele at times!

“Don’t Give Up On Us” is a powerful rock ballad which will tug quite happily at all your heart strings, as will the rather annoyingly titled “U Want Me 2” which is actually another slightly down in the mouth love song with a great piano riff that sounds really familiar but I can’t quite place it but then the song deviates off that to a more standard rock ballad again. It’s not that the track is bad by any means, but the piano riff sets you up for one thing, and then you get something else!

The final track “Bring On the Wonder” shifts tone completely to a fantastically aural song with harmonised vocals, piano and minimal anything else. There’s a great use of vocal breath in this track and its easily one of the best songs Sarah McLachlan has ever recorded. It just struck a real chord with me.

The deluxe edition has a piano version of “Love Come” which is great and gives the song a whole new twist and emotion. There’s also a bonus DVD with 5 faultless live performances in her house with an interview spliced throughout.

“Laws of Illusion” is easily worth the wait. It’s more of the same in some respects but everything has a new glean, spit and polish on it and this is easily the most joyous and happy album McLachlan has made. For that, it deserves a place in your CD collection without doubt.

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