Album Review: Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993)


28. Aug. 2011, 10:12

Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

At first I want to say that I have a kind of difficult relationship with Sarah McLachlan. I completely fell in love with the song Adia about 2 years ago. During the past 2 years I bought almost all of her albums among which this one: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, which I bought in October of last year (2010). But after listening to her so often, I must say I got a bit bored by her. I cannot say exactly why but her music lacks the ability to keep me interested and inspired in a way like e.g. Tori Amos does. But after listening to Fumbling Towards Ecstasy more carefully a bit of the old love came back. Her lyrics are very deep and personal. They are cryptic and using a lot of symbolic language, which I think is very beautiful. But the problem for me is that I really have to read the lyrics carefully to get touched by them. It doesn't happen through the music, by just listening to it. Maybe it is because of the overall sound of the songs, which is a very accessible, contemporary singer-songwriter sound. It lacks a bit of originality I think and a bit of power. I cannot deny that the songs are beautiful, but because they all have that same sound, they get boring too soon. It also has something to do with her voice. She has a beautiful voice, but it is not expressing much of emotion. Or maybe I have to state it differently: her voice is expressing the same kind of emotion all the time. For me it is therefore difficult to get a feeling of what she is singing about and to get really touched by her songs. The subjects of the songs are interesting, although it is not always easy to tell what they are. After a first listen you might think that all of the songs are about love and relationships, but they are deeper than that. The first song Possession is written from the perspective of a (male) fan who was kind of stalking her and sending her letters with what he wanted to do with her. I think it is very brave of her to pick these lines from the letters and use them in a song. It is one of the best songs of the album, in my opinion. Another song I like is Good Enough, especially the last chorus is beautiful: So don’t tell me why
He’s never been good to you
Don’t tell me why
He’s never been there for you
Don’t you know that why
Is simply not good enough
Someone told me once that the word "why" is always indicating a kind of accusation or blaming. In the beginning I thought that wasn't true at all, but now I think it is very wise and true indeed. People are asking about reasons and motivations all the time ("why did you do that?") while that is maybe not the most important after all. Also the struggle of being 'good enough' is very familiar to me. Ice Cream is a funny song with very simple lyrics. Hearing her singing "your love is better than ice cream / chocolate" gives me an immediate craving for ice cream or chocolate (or chocolate ice cream, even better)!! I also like the Joni Mitchell cover Blue. Because blue is by far my most favourite colour this song is kind of special to me. The booklet of the album is beautiful. All of the lyrics are handwritten, which is cool, but also a bit difficult to read them. The capitals of the titles of the songs are small drawings, like in medieval books, very nicely done. On the backside of the booklet some drawings of Sarah are depicted. I don't really know what they are. They look like some kind of flowers or something else I don't want to think about. I don't know what she wanted to say with that, it's a bit weird.
Overall I still don't know what to think about this album. It is a good album, but my difficulties with her remain.

Best tracks: Possession, Good Enough, Ice, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy / Possession (acoustic), Blue

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  • MustBeDreaming1

    somehow i guessed that the next review object will be Sarah (though i hoped that it will be The Gathering) :-) but here for me the same thing as with Jewel: i listened to some of her songs, but didn't get into any of them... btw, her voice reminds me of someone, but i can't recall, about whom.. all the things you said about this album, i can relate to Dido! from the first word to last! :-)

    28. Aug. 2011, 18:53
  • irisvanhoorn

    No worries, I will probably do the Gathering after Sarah! :-D I just follow the list of my most played artists, but I think the Gathering will end higher up than Fiona Apple as I am listening to them very much right now. So I hope you will be patient ;-) I already thought Sarah was not really your kind of music, too 'soft' I think. And I can imagine you have this difficulties with Dido as well. She's also very contemporary, not like really original, all of her songs sound a bit the same and she is not expressing much of emotion. Yes I can get that, haha :-)

    29. Aug. 2011, 4:06
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