Sarah McLachlan’s new album Shine On see’s her continue to push on the same formula that she has been weaving around for years. The talented songstresses decides that after experimenting on Awakening, her previous work, that safety is best with this effort and that’s going to either get you excited or flat lining.
“In Your Shoes” opens in true pop rock anthem style. The piano, guitars and marching strings bark in unison around driving chords and some very nifty production tweaks that showcase multiple backing vocal layers and a lot of instruments working towards a sky of noise. It’s a great track and very late 90’s Sarah. “Flesh and Blood” turns piano and keyboard laden verses into slow burning guitar rocking choruses. Sarah’s voice goes for the higher register and it plays off the catchy melody really well – especially because it’s the voice that’s making the melody. “Monsters” continues the real Surfacing feel with rocky crunchy drums and little oohs and aahs around the main tune. It’s a potential great Sarah track although it took me a few listens to get passed all the imagery that’s become a bit hackneyed. “Broken Heart” is again a very accomplished track and gives a jazzy gospel side to the album although it doesn’t rival other ballads in my favourite top 5 of hers. “Surrender and Certainty” is even more quieter and holds a real late night bar feel. Because of it’s a simplicity and honesty it feels like a much stronger ballad initially – it certainly stuck out as a favourite after the album was over. Funnily enough – probably my favourite track from the album is the simple “Song for my Father” which is a happy beat, long drawn out vocals, an acoustic guitar and a flute. It’s divine and shows what just having a lovely tune can do.
“Turn the Lights Down Low” starts off with a nod to Fear before it turns into a mid tempo percussion heavy track. Those echoing vocals do return but the track stays as a minimal spacious piece and has some interesting chord changes. “Love Beside Me” however could have sat on Surfacing and no one would have noticed it being out-of-place. It’s a bit unfair to say it, there’s clearly a lot more going on in McLachlan’s tracks but the further the album progresses, the more it feels like Surfacing Part 2. That’s no bad thing at all. The middle eight is also one of the most rousing pieces she’s ever written – it’s a fantastic track. “Brink of Destruction” is actually a warm snuggle sounding song in terms of production and drifts by like a warm breeze on a late summer evening. “Beautiful Girl” has a smile to its melancholy ways. It’s how it breaks from the sad verses into the gently uplifting chorus – its one of McLachlan’s great strengths and it works well here. “The Sound that Love Makes” is a great finale of fun, breezy and a hint of 60’s swing behind the happy chords, Rhodes, finger clips and uke.
I’ve said it several times – it feels like Surfacing Part Two. It’s more complex in some places but overall it feels like it’s sibling. That will ultimately decide your score but you know you’re in safe hands when Sarah McLachlan comes to town.