Sarah's Still On Top
A Review of Adia Single from the Brooklyn College Excelsior
by Aly Walansky
With the release of Adia, the latest single from Sarah McLachlan's most recent album, Surfacing, due out next week, this may be a more appropriate time than ever before to address the myriad of reasons to listen to Sarah McLachlan at regular intervals, and most especially, this album.
Being that Surfacing came out last summer though, most of you have probably already made the conscious decision to buy or not buy the album. If you own it already, listen to it now, and experience Adia again for the first time. If you do not own it yet and do not have the funds available to invest in a full length album, run right out and buy the new single as soon as it comes out next week. It costs little more than a large mocha, and will be an incomparably carthetic experience.
Since the album is by entertainment standards old news, I suppose to should concentrate on the new single.
"Adia", musically, with its piano, dry drums and plainly-delivered, is a bit of a throwback to
The Freedom Sessions, largely free from Sarah's usual textural manipulations. The lyrics begin forebodingly: "Adia I do believe I've failed you, / Adia I know I've let you down / Don't you know I tried so hard to love you in my way? / It's easy letting go."
If "I Love You", which began with delusional happiness, ended up close to suicidal, I'm scared to see what depths a song that begins this unraveled can plunge to. Fittingly, though, this one reverses the album's emotional curve, and although the song doesn't actually find a path all the way to reconciliation, its chorus, "We are born innocent: / Believe me, Adia, we are still innocent", does offer the consoling hope that a new beginning is always possible, no matter how much has happened.
Which is of course what all of Solace is about; love gone hopelessly bad and our attempt to repair it without destroying ourselves in the process.
"Adia"'s rising sense of energy completed captivated me the first time I listened to it, brilliantly putting into words emotions that once seemed indescribable. Love evades us just as often as it finds us, and it the truth of that fate that pulls us into each soulful lyric. Sarah almost seems to draw some sustenance from the
Inevitability of rejection, and in her admission, "I have the sense to recognize / That I don't know how to let you go", there is a sort of resignation that carries the seeds of self-possession, like her refusal to let go is a function of her desires, not something that the man in her life controls, even implicitly.
Although fantastic, Adia is no better than the other songs on this overwhelmingly great album. Just invest in the single if you must, but really try to experience all of Surfacing if you can.
The album opens with its first single, "Building a Mystery," a straight-ahead pop tune with a lyric that could describe anyone who creates a fake personality to hide their insecurities behind. "You come out at night/ That's when the energy comes/ When the dark side's light and the vampires roam/You strut your rasta wear and your suicide poem," she sings over layers of brilliantly played acoustic and electric guitars. This first song is probably my favorite from the album - so much so that it has been the outgoing message on my answering machine since it's inception. It has this captivating beat that pulls you into every single lyric.
Much of Surfacing focuses on electric guitar beat, which McLachlan plays like no one else. Her other albums, like Fumbling for Ecstasy and Solace seemed to concentrate on piano melodies, which always worked well, but the switch for this album seems appropriate for the mood of these songs. "Adia" and "Black & White" maintain a quiet sadness, but "Sweet Surrender" really breaks loose with its
siren-like opening riff and its cool lyrical themes. McLachlan's soaring vocal, backed by the crashing guitars and drums, is amazing.
Of course, no Sarah McLachlan album would be complete without a few of her traditional piano-based tracks, and Surfacing is no exception. She explores loss in "Do What You Have To Do," co-written with friend Colleen Wolstenholme. But the real devastation comes with "Angel," a song that has brought me to tears every time I have played it. Her lyrics on "Angel" are dismal enough that we can relate it to any of our bluest moments: "I need some distraction, oh beautiful release/ Memories seep from my veins/ it may be empty and weightless/ and maybe I'll find some peace tonight/ in the arms of the angel." McLachlan's piano melody is equally helps to set the mood, creating a stunning tribute to the desire to be lifted away from the pain that plagues us, yet knowing that it won't happen.
This album is, as a whole, an amazing experience. Listen to it alone though. This is not the sort of music that you will want to play at a party, and will mostly likely inspire some deep, dark thoughts that you might not be ready to share. If you are easily moved to tears, this might be more than you can handle - but still worth the risk.
Webmaster Julian C. Dunn (firstname.lastname@example.org)