On Tuesday, Nov. 4, I sacrificed a last minute linguistics study session for a bus ride to Record Archive. What could be so important that I would put my academic future on the line? For a freak of soft-rock music like me, it could only be Sarah McLachlan’s first studio-recorded album in years.

Sarah McLachlan returns to music charts with “Afterglow,” her first studio release since 1997. The last album released was 1999’s “Mirrorball,” a collection of her greatest hits performed live. Despite being eagerly anticipated by longtime Sarah fans, “Afterglow” crept quietly onto the new release shelves across the country.

At first listen, the album seems to fade into the background of whatever you are doing at the time. Almost every track on “Afterglow” lacks the individual strength found in the tracks of 1993’s “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy.” After listening to the whole album a few times, I was able to pick apart each song, and I grow to love this album more each time I listen to it.

Only a few memorable tracks emerge from “Afterglow.” The first is “Fallen,” a song about making mistakes. The album reaches its crescendo early on with “Stupid,” a peculiar song because of its slightly overproduced, synthesized orchestral sounds – which I enjoyed because of its addictive hook.

There are a few songs before and after “Stupid,” but nothing caught my attention more than track six, “Push.”

“Push” is ridiculously romantic in that sappy, gushy, uncharacteristic-of-Sarah McLachlan way. “You’re all the things that I desire/You save me/You complete me/You’re the one true thing I know I can believe in.” Add the trademark Sarah McLachlan wailing in the background and you get the worst track on the album. “Push” is a sad day for Sarah fans and good news for people who like to make cheesy “love mixes” for their girlfriends/boyfriends.

After “Push,” the album downshifts into songs that echo the last half of “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.” It is her slower songs that I prefer, so McLachlan redeems herself.

“Time” has the right blend of lyrics, vocals and those background ooh’s and ahh’s, avoiding the overproduction vibe the rest of the album emits. Her voice seems to hover above “Perfect Girl,” proving she is connected with all elements of her sound. “Afterglow” wraps things up nicely with the rawest cut – McLachlan on piano and her producer Pierre Marchand on keyboard – on the disc, “Dirty Little Secret.”

The album leaves listeners asking if there is more. In the six or seven years since her album, fans have been waiting for new McLachlan and in “Afterglow” she brings nothing entirely new. While some in the record industry see this lack of growth as a bad sign, fans will still appreciate “Afterglow” for the more than $15 they paid for it.

I guess it all depends what you are looking for in a record. If you want more of the smoother, softer, non-Top 40 Sarah McLachlan, “Afterglow” is a good choice. If not, pick up a copy of McLachlan’s older release,”Mirrorball,” at the closest used CD store.

Borchardt can be reached at jborchardt@campustimes.org.



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