"LAWS OF ILLUSION is Sarah McLachlan returning to her finest form, last seen since SURFACING, released 14 years ago. This album took 7 years and perhaps countless ups and downs in McLachlan's life to make - and the wait is every bit worthwhile. McLachlan's discography has always been timeless, such that SURFACING could have been released yesterday and LAWS OF ILLUSION in 1996 and no one would be able to tell. Such is the excellence of musical craftsmanship and brilliance of song-making partnership between McLachlan and long-time producer Pierre Marchand.
There are 12 songs (and an additional bonus track) on this latest album, 2 of which previously featured on GREATEST HITS released 2 years ago. Initially I was critical of this, blaming laziness and lack of effort. Then I became appreciative. "U Want Me 2" is one of the best McLachlan songs ever - lush instrumental, poetic lyrics, ethereal vocals all lending to heartbreaking imagery. I'm glad I have it on here as part of the collection rather than having to keep going back to the GH collection to hear it. It fits in perfectly with LAWS OF ILLUSION like the last piece of jigsaw. And 13 songs on a McLachlan studio album is always a bonus, considering SURFACING and AFTERGLOW only had 10!
LAWS OF ILLUSION is perhaps McLachlan's hardest and edgiest sounding collection - swirling electric guitars are present on most songs. But the sound never drifts too far from what all fans will claim is McLachlan's (sort of what you'd expect if Enya did rock). The album also contains some of McLachlan's happiest sounding songs in a sing-songy, chorusy way: "Illusion Of Bliss", "Loving You Is Easy", "Out Of Tune" and "Heartbreak". Even the instrumentation is fuller, more uplifting, a little bit more bouncy as if it were skipping happily along. But make no mistake, those "happy" songs never end up sounding like cotton candy having been through the hands of this queen of melancholy. McLachlan always finds a way to serve them up as mostly minor-chord songs that transition into a major-chord chorus. "Illusion Of Bliss" is a misnomer, there is no illusion about the bliss contained in this song.
I need to specially mention "Forgiveness", my newest, favourite McLachlan song. The instrumental arrangement is exquisite, the melody is trademark McLachlan. The solitary piano beginnings deceive the listener into thinking this as "Angel" #2, but when the beats drop, background cooing vocals enter and guitar envelope the song, you discover the masterpiece. I think this song inspired the classy and dreamy album cover. I also need to single out "Awakening". It is different, moody, electric-guitar-rock-loud and has a song structure that is not immediately discernible. But it is a stand-out and showcases McLachlan as a rock goddess doing Coldplay. Finally, "Rivers Of Love" and "Changes" deserve attention too, as a throwback to the SURFACING era. This is your 2010 "Do What You Have To Do" and "Full Of Grace" respectively. Check out the saw.
I have deliberately left out the most important ingredient on LAWS OF ILLUSION for last. Shimmering, magical, breath-taking, expressive, soothing and flawless: McLachlan's voice. It is what makes a McLachlan CD a McLachlan CD. It has remained the same from the day I first started listening to her. Her phrasing is unique; her slight cracks are emotion-drenched; and the oft-featured yodel-break is skilfully used throughout.
LAWS OF ILLUSION is pretty much perfect. I'll be spinning this one for however long it takes for the next McLachlan CD to drop. If she takes this long to release music as astounding as this, so be it.
Liam F. 16 June 2010"
Still fantastic voice, but less-than fantastic songs
Justin Elswick | Provo Utah | 06/19/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I started listening to Sarah McLachlan years ago when her debut TOUCH was released. I was a fan long before she ever became an international star. She is maybe one of 3 or 4 artists whose album releases are always an event for me. I would rank her main albums (as far as overall quality) as follows:
1. Fumbling Towards 2. Solace 3. Surfacing/Touch/Afterglow 4. Laws of Illusion
I can genuinely say that in my opinion, she has never written or sung a "bad" song. However, I think there are definite peaks for her (both from a song and album standpoint). After listening to the newest album, I have to be totally honest and say that I feel just a tinge of disappointment; particularly after waiting so many years for new material. Her voice is as breathtaking and strong and perfect as ever, but the overall songwriting has really seemed to have slipped. In listening to the tracks, I noticed (first off) that the majority are slow/mid-tempo numbers that are contemplative and digestible. I definitely feel like Sarah McLachlan did what Dido did on her last album--namely turn into an ADULT CONTEMPORARY-type artist, making music for the 30 + crowd. Furthermore, the chord progressions have a meandering Beatle-esque quality that is not offensive, but not striking at all. While there are a few pleasant tracks (Rivers of Love, Out of Tune, Heartbreak and U Want Me 2) and one stellar track (Bring on the Wonder), that leaves 7 tracks that are mediocre. Mediocre for Sarah is like saying "great" for most other artists, but when I listen to songs like FEAR, BUILDING A MYSTERY, INTO THE FIRE, BEN'S SONG or STUPID, there is hardly anything like that on this new album. The problem is that most of the melodies are just not that engaging or memorable--and that is an uncommon thing for Sarah McLachlan. Where is the energy, fire, innovative harmonies and sweet chord progressions? It is like she's been listening to Phil Collins for the last few years. At any rate, I know she's been through a tough time personally, and we should be grateful she is still making music, but I hope she'll get more edge and creativity back on her next outing (whenever that might be)."
An illuminating comeback!
Annie Feng | Pleasanton, CA | 06/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After a long seven year wait Sarah Mclachlan finally came back with an album, and I have to say that the wait is definitely worth it. With this album, Sarah went with the time and made her album darker and more leaning towards rock and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy sound than her mellower albums such as Surfacing. Some of the songs (Awakening, Love Come, Out of Tune for e.g.) sounded a little bit like Depeche Mode's Precious in that gorgeous techno-rock way. Her lyrics are much better than Afterglow. Her voice is just as good and expressive as before. Her melodies are much more complicated, like Fumbling. I believe it is a great improvement of her last album. But then again I would need to listen to it a few more times before I can completely decide. Because Afterglow grew on me a great deal. But all I can say as of now is that, fans don't worry, it sounds just like her; her style hasn't changed, it's still Sarah, which means no matter what you should at least like it if you are her fan like I am. So go buy it with confidence :)
Now I have to complain a few things about this album: 1. doing a cover of Susan Enan's Bring On the Wonder. Don't get me wrong, her version is great, but the thing is that the song is too well known (especially for those Bones watchers) and Enan's version simply cannot be topped. So some can see this as kind of leaning toward laziness because this is the first time I can recall that Sarah is covering a song on a studio album as a main track that wasn't written by her. 2. Putting two songs she's already released before on Closer Don't Give Up On Us and U Want Me Too on her album. I'm just thankful that I didn't buy Closer and waited so they are still fresh for me. 3. The album is slightly overproduced in that many of the background vocals were obviously not hers. Sorry I tend to have a qualm about "helping vocals" I tend to like it better if the background vocals were also the singers. There are exceptions, of course, but in this case I think I would like it better if the male background vocals weren't there.
But these are just little things, and I understand her obligations towards her family more than music. Overall it still deserves 5 stars. Thank you Sarah!!!
P.S. Awakening really should be the first single; it is an absolutely gorgeous first track!!!"
Thank you...!!! Thank you Sarah!!!
JRay | Wisconsin | 06/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a fan since WAY back. Loved her first albums, but she lost me after the whole Lilith Fair tours started happening. My favorite album of hers was Surfacing, but I could never seem to get that feeling back for her music with Afterglow... BUT this album returns Sarah back with haunting melodies, lyrics, and her voice is so clear and pleasing. I feel like she is back to doing the things she does with music that she does best. I am not sure if other fans feel the same way, but this album is one of her best in years. She will be able to rock this album in front of thousands or fit it to a acousitic setting for a lucky few. My favorites are Awakenings, Forgiveness, Come Love, Bring on The Wonder, and Loving You is Easy. She does have acouple songs on this album that have been previously released (I might be wrong about that...but it seems that I have seen/heard them before) U Want Me 2. If you have been away from Sarah and are wondering if this album is worth the money or the spin...you won't be disappointed..you will be refreshed! AWESOME!"
Sarah Mclachlan has Done it Again!
iluvmy2boys09 | 06/25/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What is it? Do you even need to ask... Sarah Mclachlan has made another hit album with "Laws of Illusion". The song Forgiveness really captures my attention and I can really connect with the idea of trying to forgive someone that has hurt you so much. Her sorrowful, yet angelic voice captivates your attention from the start. The music is perfect for those relaxing evenings by the fireplace or in the jacuzzi tub with a glass of wine and just disconnecting yourself from the rest of the world. Definitely number one in my cd player and ipod right now. Definitely worth purchasing!"