Sarah McLachlan: Laws of Illusion

Laws of Illusion is Sarah McLachlan’s first studio album of all new material in seven years. Best known as the driving force behind Lilith Fair, the gifted Canadian singer-songwriter first captured my attention with her 1991 sophomore release Solace. Largely inspired by the breakup of her marriage, Laws of Illusion delves into a lyrical sorrow not heard from Sarah in this decade. Stylistically, however, the new album’s pop sound has more in common with 2003’s Afterglow than with her earlier catalogue. Luke Doucet guests on the new album, providing backing vocals and instrumentation to several tracks.

How long have you waited? How long ‘til you drown?

In a VH1 interview just before the release of 1993’s exquisite Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah spoke of her lifelong admiration of Joni Mitchell. Her first three albums strongly reflected that particular folk inspiration, but Sarah abandoned the poetic acoustics in favor of a more radio friendly pop style for her recent releases.

However, the press release for Laws of Illusion included a quote from her idol Joni Mitchell: “Sarah looks at love ‘from both sides now.'” That hint of a return to Sarah’s musical roots didn’t quite pan out, but the dual sentiment of Mitchell’s lyric does sum up the new album.

The best portions of Laws of Illusion examine the heartbreak and anger born of love gone wrong, finding Sarah returning to a deeper sound appropriate to such an emotional loss.

The betrayal anthem “Forgiveness” is a prime example of this darker tone and has accurately been described as the centerpiece of Laws of Illusion. The bluesy and atmospheric ballad “Rivers of Love” is another strong point, recalling Sarah’s debut Touch.

The rest of the album sounds more like the catchy recent hits by Sara Bareilles, particularly the jaunty and sentimental first single “Loving You Is Easy.” That’s certainly not a bad thing, for the world is in dire need of good pop songs. It just seems like a waste of Sarah’s beautiful voice.

The sparse music box arrangement of the finale “Bring on the Wonder” is a much lovelier display of Sarah’s substantial talents.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…

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Sarah McLachlan Official Site
Sarah McLachlan MySpace

Mp3 Menagerie: Sia, Luke Doucet, Amelia Curran

Sia – You’ve Changed (mp3) *

New electro-pop ditty from Sia’s upcoming album We Are Born, to be released in 2010.

Pre-order @ Amazon (not yet available)

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep


Luke Doucet – First Day (In The New Hometown) (mp3) *

This is a song from Luke Doucet’s latest album, Blood’s Too Rich (click album title for my review).

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*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist’s PR rep


Amelia Curran – The Mistress (mp3) *

Track from Canadian singer-songwriter Amelia Curran’s new album Hunter Hunter.

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*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of artist

Melissa McClelland: Victoria Day

I didn’t catch the first wave of reviews of Melissa McClelland’s Victoria Day, but it’s far to good to ignore and I can’t resist an album that bears my name. Much like the Canadian singer-songwriter’s previous release Thumbelina’s One Night Stand, the new songs layer murky lyrics with jaunty arrangements and feature the instrumentation of her husband and producer Luke Doucet.

I received Melissa’s album during what I would call a musical slump – a stressful time when I felt no inspiration or motivation to listen to music, let alone write about it. Everything I tried listening to at the time sounded boring or depressing to me. I can only describe what I felt when I first heard the opening notes of Victoria Day as “refreshment”. Suddenly I remembered why I love music so much, and why I feel the need to write about it.

Melissa’s voice has the soft, smooth purr of Norah Jones or Melody Gardot, but the songs on Victoria Day have the sultry swagger of Maria Muldaur. This is especially true for the opener “A Girl Can Dream” and the twangy blues-rock number “Glen Rio” (which I first posted last month). If you like this song, you will love the album…

Melissa McClelland – Glen Rio (mp3) *

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of Girlie Action PR

Melissa McClelland Official Site

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Melissa McClelland - Victoria Day

Luke Doucet & The White Falcon: Blood’s Too Rich

Luke Doucet is back, this time sharing the moniker spotlight with his band The White Falcon. Whereas his previous release Broken (And Other Rogue States) revelled in the sweet melancholia of a heartsick poet, Blood’s Too Rich has a tougher, dustier exterior. It’s the seventh album from Doucet, who is husband to White Falcon band member Melissa McClelland and label/tour mate to Justin Rutledge.

The opener “Long Haul Driver” is the sexy, smoky wild child of C.W. Mccall’s “Convoy”, while the catchy Americana “Blood’s Too Rich” has shades of Springsteen by way of Ryan Adams. A slightly distorted but still very upbeat rendition of The Cure’s “The Lovecats” provides a sunny interlude. Doucet’s daughter Chloë sings on the cover as well as the moody finale “Bombs Away”.

“First Day (In The New Hometown)” is a rousing display Western soul, “Take You Home” has a simmering “Crimson and Clover” (Joan Jett version) retro rock riff, and “The Commandante” is drenched in Latin brass, string, and piano embellishments that would do Alejandro proud.

The stand out track “The Day Rick Danko Died” is a gonzo melting pot of hillbilly washboard pluck and bluesy rock grind. The song would be equally fitting on an old Led Zeppelin album or a new release by Reverend Peyton.

Luke Doucet Official Site

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Buy it at Six Shooter Records

Melissa McClelland: Thumbelina’s One Night Stand

Melissa McClelland is the wife of Luke Doucet, who produced and played on her 2006 release. Melissa was previously a background singer for Sarah McLachlan, who joins the husband and wife team on Thumbelina’s One Night Stand. I won’t be surprised if comparisons are drawn between the two female Canadian singer-songwriters, but I think McClelland’s pretty avant-garde style is more akin to Megan Palmer. Thumbelina’s One Night Stand is a darkly twisted and beautiful fairytale.

In addition to producing Thumbelina’s One Night Stand, Luke Doucet contributes backing vocals, vibes, wurlitzer, piano, pedal steel, pump organ, harmonica, guitars, and percussion. Banjo, melotron, chamberlain, trumpet, French horn, Celtic harp, alto and baritone sax are also present, among several other instruments and sound effects.

“Passenger 24” rips open this album with a saucy, dusty piano and pedal steel hum beneath Melissa’s velvet chanteuse voice. Then “Iroquis Street Factory” softens the mood with a jazzy cabaret fable centered around factory workers. The languid “Dayton Ohio, 1903” was written by Randy Newman. The album also includes two bonus tracks mixed by Jeff Trott.

Other songs on Thumbelina’s One Night Stand alternate between ethereal Sarah Mclachlan pop, smooth Madeleine Peyroux jazz, lilting Jenny Lewis indie-rock, and an indescribable, beautifully creepy blues that belongs in New Orleans or some Deep South swamp. The latter description is especially fitting for the eerie twang of “Go Down Matthew”, which features vocals by Sarah Mclachlan.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples from the album at Melissa’s MySpace page.

Melissa McClelland Official Site

Buy the CD