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ISSUE 117 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/21/2003

Critic's Corner

By Peter Gloviczki
Staff Writer

Friday, November 21, 2003

With past hits such as “Adia” and “Sweet Surrender,” fans of Sarah McLachlan have grown accustomed to the Canadian pop singer’s soothing voice and thought-provoking lyrics. On “Afterglow,” her first studio offering since 1997’s extremely popular “Surfacing,” McLachlan uses her familiar style and delivers another strong effort.

The album opens with “Fallen,” a track that showcases McLachlan’s talents as a lyricist. “Fallen” tells the familiar tale of love and loss, but McLachlan’s lyrics lend this story a fresh voice. She sings “In the lonely light of morning / In the wound that would not heal / It's the bitter taste of losing everything / I've held so dear.”

The album continues with “World on Fire,” McLachlan’s commentary about the state of the world today and the impact of Sept. 11, 2001. While many major recording artists have written about terrorism, “World on Fire” marks McLachlan’s first song on this subject. “Hearts break hearts mend love still hurts / Visions clash planes crash still there’s talk / of saving souls still cold’s closing in on us.”

Aside from this song about Sept. 11, the album maintains a focus on the subjects of life and love, which have brought McLachlan success in the past. Despite the similarities, this album is not simply a repackaged version of “Surfacing,” which was ranked as high as number two on the Billboard 200. “Afterglow” shows McLachlan applying her vocal talents and achieving a level of lyrical complexity similar to that found on earlier hits such as “Angel” and “Building a Mystery.”

In a world with countless female pop singers, from Tori Amos to Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch, McLachlan produces a distinct sound that sets her apart from her contemporaries.

While “Afterglow” reveals no stark departures from the soothing vocals that made McLachlan one of the most popular artists of the late 1990s, this album signals an evolution in the song-writing talents of the Canadian songstress. She is able to write about seemingly cliché subjects such as love and lovers while retaining a refreshing style. As she sings in “Answer:” “I will be the answer at the end of the line / I will be there for you while you take the time / In the burning of uncertainty I will be your solid ground /I will hold the balance if you cant look down.”

After six years without a studio release, “Afterglow” presents McLachlan in excellent form as she uses her calming voice and lyrical honesty to deliver a quality album

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