- Little Earthquakes
- Abnormally Attracted to Sin
- Native Invader
Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
Paul Dempsey - Strange Loop
Missy Higgins - Solastalgia
Jars of Clay - The Eleventh Hour
- Battle Studies
- Born and Raised
- Paradise Valley
- The Search for Everything
Janelle Monae - Electric Lady
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
Alanis Morissette - Under Rug Swept
R.E.M. - Automatic for the People
Simply Red - Picture Book
Thrice - Major/Minor
Assuming that anyone actually continues to read this blog, you would have noticed that the April entry for pop music talked about my purchase of two albums as soon as they came out, but only went on to discuss one of those albums.
That was partly for reasons of length, and partly because I knew full well that I had spent a considerable amount of May listening to Missy Higgins' Solastalgia and could discuss it here.
Of the pair of new purchases, Solastalgia was the one that was a little unexpected and a very pleasant surprise. I already have Missy Higgins' first 3 albums, but had skipped her fourth which consisted of covers of other Australian artists. I might get back to it one day, as reviews indicate she did successfully place her own spin on the material.
Those first 3 albums are a slightly mixed bag for me. They are never poor, but also don't always seem to be quite as great as they could be. Her debut, a significant success at least in Australia, has a somewhat folk feel and some truly beautiful and powerful songs. The second album feels like a struggle in comparison, as if she didn't know how to avoid repeating herself. The third album's first half is a bit more pop and in my opinion has some of the best work she has done, but then the second half falls away a bit.
Solastalgia is something new again, and all the better for it. For one thing it has a considerable tinge of electronica. But the more interesting aspect of the album is how clearly thematic it is. The title itself is a term referring to distress caused by environmental change, reflecting how the album is a rumination on life, the state of the world and in particular the ways in which we seem to be destroying it.
It's the opening track, "Starting Again", that I think is a stunning success. It's a song to a child about all the reasons it's not a good idea to bring a child into the world, and how those reasons evaporate once a child arrives. It's a powerful, complex sentiment that I don't think I've ever heard put into song before, and Higgins' lyrics are fully up to the task.
Nothing that follows has quite the same impact, but the arc of the album is a satisfying one as it roughly moves from past to future, ending with "The Old Star" which imagines our distant descendants returning to the solar system to see what little is left.
The album as a whole is perhaps not a masterpiece, but it's always at least good, and worth hearing. And it means something. I think that was one of the pleasing things when I bought this alongside Dirty Computer: here are two singers both using the album format to present a considered artistic statement and to get listeners to think about things as well as being entertained.