Sounds like: Shimmering modern pop; compare to The Choir, The Sundays, 10,000 Maniacs
Top tracks: "Sooner Than Later," "When You Call Me," "Failure"
The title of an album can say so much. Not only about the heart of the songs within, but also the mindset of the band who wrote and recorded them.
Sixpence None the Richer understands this better than almost anyone. The group self-titled its 1997 breakthrough album as a statement of purpose, an introduction to anyone outside the CCM world who was likely hearing this glimmering pop for the first time. They followed that five years later with Divine Discontent, an album whose name revealed a musical partnership that was beginning to come apart, as well as a band struggling with its raging success.
After a breakup that saw the main creative forces—singer Leigh Nash and guitarist Matt Slocum—start families and release solo material, Sixpence has returned with the aptly titled Lost in Transition. It's a reference to the issues the band ran into trying to get the album released, as well as looking at their own lives as they wander through this new era of the band and their creative relationship.
For all that upheaval, there is constancy to be found here, a steady reminder of what made this band so special even before they hit the top of the pop charts. For one, Nash sounds as clear and melodious as ever, spreading out joy and melancholy as needed. Slocum backs her up ably with his recognizable chiming guitar tone and sharp ear for melody.
With that firm foundation, the duo runs through a number of variations on the titular theme of transition. Sometimes this takes on a playful edge as with the album's horn-inflected opening track "My Dear Machine," which pays homage to an automobile rusting away in his backyard. But more often, it looks at life's changes with pangs of regret and deep wells of emotion.
This works most affectingly on "Sooner Than Later," a devastating song Nash wrote about her recently deceased father. It doesn't wallow in sentimentality, choosing instead to lean on snippets of imagery and a tone of smiling resignation at the unspoken understanding that death touches us all at some point in our lives ("When it's my turn to fall/you'll catch me sooner or later").
The ballast that kept Nash and Slocum grounded throughout this period of transition was their faith. Not surprisingly, statements to that effect are made throughout the album. They struggle with believing on "Give It Back" ("You're everywhere in every time / and yet you're always hard to find"), and in "When You Call Me" seek God in their darkest hour, via the simple question, "Will I come to life if you call me?"
They don't answer the question, nor do they rely on easy platitudes to make listeners feel better about their trials. The beauty and light is taken care of by the music. The rest of the album dares to dig in the dirt and mud, calmly searching for jewels of wisdom.
Homepage image by Tec Petaja
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