Album Review: Sarah McLachlan – Shine On

Published On May 3, 2014 | By Andrew Le | Albums, Music

Sarah McLachlan’s status as one of the greatest Canadian singer-songwriters of her generation is indisputable. Her Grammy-award winning Surfacing album, which includes iconic tracks such as radio staple Building A Mystery and the gut-wrenchingly beautiful Angel, is a go-to album for budding pop singer-songwriters.

SarahMcLachlan-ShineOnShine On is the mother-of-two’s first album of new material in four years. Even 25 years into her career, McLachlan can still deliver quality songs and vocal chops.

In Your Shoes is a jaunty, defiant opener whose melodies (especially in the second halves of each verse and the choruses) are a delight for those who love hooks. There’s even a bridge thrown in that throws the song off onto a tangent, yet sounds so right.

McLachlan’s distinctive falsetto and Enya-esque breathy background vocals lift the seemingly conventional Flesh and Blood into a mesmerising, heavenly torrent of passion that sweeps listeners off their feet. They are in for a rude awakening in the final chorus however, as a ghostly McLachlan deadpans ‘let’s burn it all’ as if over the phone. This climate of spookiness lingers on Monsters, with its supernatural vibe (think the Eagles’ Witchy Woman), power chords and thumping drums.

There come the calming but somewhat middle-of-the-road waltz ballads like Broken Heart and Brink of Destruction. Surrender and Certainty is the most interesting of these slower tracks, with a romantic arrangement featuring a brass section that stops just short of completely overwhelming the song. McLachlan yearns for safety in someone else’s arms, as she clearly sounds worn out from the upheavals of life. The lovely, folky shuffle of Song For My Father (one track evidently inspired by the death of her father) continues this theme of McLachlan seeking support and reassurance to fight against personal demons.

Love Beside Me is a breath of fresh air that restores a bit of the momentum lost by the waltz-y snoozers. Its songwriting and arrangements pack a bit more punch, with McLachlan’s double-tracked vocals, rousing male ‘oh-oh-oh’ harmonies in the bridge, hard-hitting drums and a band jam for an instrumental outro.

Finally, The Sound That Love Makes is a whimsical, proficient closer, sounding like a pleasant, tropical, ukelele tribute to The Beatles’ Your Mother Should Know.

Sarah McLachlan’s new album simply reaffirms her ability to write songs that are relatable yet go beneath the surface. Her vocal performances remain captivating as ever, meaning that she should have no problem in promoting this album on the road.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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