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Sarah McLachlan: Fumbling Towards Acceptance

I first encountered Sarah McLachlan’s voice on the Nettwerk Sampler, Vol. 3 way back in 1991. (Good heavens! Was it really?) The ethereal song was entitled “What Lies Beyond,” which remains an obscurity in her body of work and was originally intended for her debut album, Touch.

She was still a teenager at the time of this recording, but I remember obsessing over it and wondering from whence this singer with the haunting, Kate Bush-esque voice came (Halifax, Nova Scotia, actually). It’s a song that 20 years on seems like it a good fit for where she’s at these days. Full of heartache (of which I had plenty back then), but also filled with the promise of something new, the song seemed and seems a perfect summation of her new record, Laws of Illusion.

It’s nice to rediscover the Sublime Ms. M. It’s been seven years since her last studio effort, Afterglow, and Saturn has indeed turned The latest outing reflects the trials and tribulations that make dwelling in the realm of love difficult. From the joy of marriage to its eventual dissolution, this bittersweet offering features a range of emotions with uptempo songs like “Loving You is Easy,” to the vintage McLachlan sounds of “Out of Tune” and “U Want Me 2” (complete with a Tears For Fears “Mad World” intro).

It’s a fairly somber album, wherein Sarah displays her indisputable vocal gifts, as well as her flair for piano and glockenspiel. The overarching theme is perfectly summed up with the lyrical question: “Is forever over now?” Timeless, sad, searching. From the darkness, into the light. Hers is a restless pursuit set to song. Permeating throughout are songs that illuminate or illustrate that sense of loss, the out-of-control feelings, the high-to-low swings, the various dead-ends, struggles to hold on, all the myriad ways couples push/pull each other, moving from weakness to strength and falling back to weakness again. All with eventual resolve. Wanting to hold on and let go all at the same time. It’s the perfect encapsulation of all that a relationship sometimes comes to and this inestimable singer-songwriter has the ability to keep those fading, precious embers alive for a few moments more.

McLachlan will be returning to Lilith Fair this summer, headlining the all-female concert tour and cultural event that she founded way back in 1997. With a lineup that includes Norah Jones, Mary J. Blige, Rihanna, Sheryl Crow, Corrine Bailey Rae, Heart, Indigo Girls, Loretta Lynn, Courtyard Hounds, Erykah Badu, Cat Power, Emmylou Harris and more? Well, can’t wait!

Sarah’s new album, Laws of Illusion, is being played in Starbucks coffeehouses as we speak.

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