Laws of Illusion is Sarah McLachlan’s first studio album of all new material in seven years. Best known as the driving force behind Lilith Fair, the gifted Canadian singer-songwriter first captured my attention with her 1991 sophomore release Solace. Largely inspired by the breakup of her marriage, Laws of Illusion delves into a lyrical sorrow not heard from Sarah in this decade. Stylistically, however, the new album’s pop sound has more in common with 2003’s Afterglow than with her earlier catalogue. Luke Doucet guests on the new album, providing backing vocals and instrumentation to several tracks.
How long have you waited? How long ‘til you drown?
In a VH1 interview just before the release of 1993’s exquisite Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah spoke of her lifelong admiration of Joni Mitchell. Her first three albums strongly reflected that particular folk inspiration, but Sarah abandoned the poetic acoustics in favor of a more radio friendly pop style for her recent releases.
However, the press release for Laws of Illusion included a quote from her idol Joni Mitchell: “Sarah looks at love ‘from both sides now.'” That hint of a return to Sarah’s musical roots didn’t quite pan out, but the dual sentiment of Mitchell’s lyric does sum up the new album.
The best portions of Laws of Illusion examine the heartbreak and anger born of love gone wrong, finding Sarah returning to a deeper sound appropriate to such an emotional loss.
The betrayal anthem “Forgiveness” is a prime example of this darker tone and has accurately been described as the centerpiece of Laws of Illusion. The bluesy and atmospheric ballad “Rivers of Love” is another strong point, recalling Sarah’s debut Touch.
The rest of the album sounds more like the catchy recent hits by Sara Bareilles, particularly the jaunty and sentimental first single “Loving You Is Easy.” That’s certainly not a bad thing, for the world is in dire need of good pop songs. It just seems like a waste of Sarah’s beautiful voice.
The sparse music box arrangement of the finale “Bring on the Wonder” is a much lovelier display of Sarah’s substantial talents.
I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…