Sarah McLachlan Afterglow Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

...thoughtful and accessible...

Jack Smith 2004

Since the release of her 1988 debut album, Touch, Canadian singer/songwriter Sara McLachlan has sold more than 22 million records. She has also won three Grammy Awards and been described as a "cultural hero for a generation of female musicians" by the LA Times. So how is it that most people in the UK have never heard of her?

McLachlan's brand of neat, soul searching pop probably sounds a touch to folksy for some British ears, and it's fair to assume that she would rather eat dung beetles than strip off for GQ. Her music is thoughtful and accessible, and really deserves more attention than it has so far received on this side of the Atlantic.

Describing her new album, McLachlan informs us that "A lot of these songs are about transitions, the turning over of the rock, whats underneath, the murky, shadowy uncertainty where everything looks very different." As a songwriter she has always drawn on personal experience and since her last solo album, 1997's "Surfacing", Mclachlan has lost her mother and given birth to a daughter, India. These transitional events are reflected in the sensitive ambience of Afterglow, striking a well-judged balance between euphoria and melancholy.

With vocals invariably spanning each track from beginning to end, there are times when some listeners might crave more space for the music to breathe. Relief comes in the form of "Drifting", which offers instrumental diversions and serves as a reminder of the artist's jazz influences. The easy groove of "Train Wreck" follows up nicely and surprises with its sassy pop chorus.

There are times when McLachlan's voice contains distinct echoes of Natalie Merchant, one time singer with 10, 000 Maniacs. On other occasions, notably on the beautiful track "Answer" - she evokes a tender sensuality, reminiscent of Judie Tzuke. Such comparisons carry no suggestion that McLachlan is unoriginal, but if you haven't heard her work before and are fans of these singers mentioned, it's probably a fair bet that you'll enjoy this album.

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