SoundsGood 07: Sarah McLachlan’s ‘Laws of Illusions’

Virtually everyone close to me (who also has to put up with my musical idiosyncrasies) has heard me refer to Sarah McLachlan as the laziest female act of the last 15 years. And by releasing her first new studio album in seven years next Tuesday (June 15), she’s not exactly proving me wrong. (I don’t consider her 2006 Christmas all-cover album ‘Wintersong’ a new release even if I do own it.) I’m just thankful we won’t have to hear one more version of a 10-year-old hit at some special event – although I’ll concede a minor asterisk for one new song she wrote when the Olympics came to her country in 2009…

The reality is I’m critical because I believe she’s one of our generation’s most significant female singer-songwriters, both for her musical work and her creation of the Lilith Fair movement. I’ve been logging info for an upcoming article on my Top 20 albums of all-time, and ‘Fumbling Toward Ecstasy’ is absolutely on that list. And female acts like Paula Cole, Jill Sobule and Meredith Brooks have received 500% more attention by being featured on Lilith than they would have otherwise.

So on to the new album. I was able to drum up a pre-release copy and I’ll make it simple: if you like Sarah’s catalog, ‘Laws of Illusions’ is a must-own. It continues her eclectic balance of piano-driven singer-songwriter and electronica queen. And she takes it to the next logical step with the song ‘Love Come’. Cut number seven is the electronica version, and cut 13 is the piano version – as different as the multiple versions of her mega-hit ‘Sweet Surrender’ although those were typically created by house DJs from all over the world. Across 3-4 full listens, I literally didn’t hear a bad song on the CD, which means one of two things for its long-term staying power: either it’s a powerhouse ala ‘Fumbling Toward Ecstasy’; or it’s so close to what I expected I’ll become bored after another 2-3 listens. Time will tell…

I will give Sarah credit for channeling the Meat Loaf award for studio albums though. If you’ve got a sound that people flock to in droves every time you release a CD, why pump one out every 14 months and burn out your audience – especially if your sound is instantly recognizable and unlikely to change significantly? You might be better off to bring something epic every five years. And my early analysis is ‘Laws of Illusions’ is just that – an epic Sarah McLachlan release. Enjoy the first single ‘Loving You Is Easy’:

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