I’ve never heard McLachlan’s debut, but I have heard a few of her later albums. (Yes, going at another artist backwards. Yet again. I know.)
I’ve long sort of been on the fence on McLachlan as a songwriter – she’s one of those songwriters who sometimes likes to pair more depressing/dour lyrical content with catchy melodies and upbeat arrangements. I can’t tell you I’ve listened enough here to catch a lot of it, but I’ve never been a big fan of that. As to the actual lyrics, I generally think her lyrics are fine though I do feel like she might get better in that regard.
But she has a pretty great sense of melody, even at this early stage. Again, she would improve, but even on this record, which was only a hit in Canada, it’s clear she’s got a knack for melody. (Though I must say I hear traces of other songwriter’s melodies – such as Joni Mitchell’s – in some of these songs, nothing I’ve detected on later records.)
Of course, the reason she was such a success is her incredible voice. There’s a touch of Irish brogue here that I think she might have ironed out a bit in the future. And it’s funny to hear it here as she sounds like a proto Canadian Dolores O’Riordan at its most extreme (just a few moments). Still, her voice is fantastic and, for me, it’s that more than the songs that made her a star.
The thing that makes me like this album more than later ones really is the arrangements. Yes, a few of them are already embracing ’90s Lilith Fair esque conventions, but you could argue that she’s almost inventing them here. And it’s more diverse than her later records I’ve heard, as well as less polished. There feels like less of a commitment to a “modern” or a “contemporary” sound. It feels more like they are trying to match the instruments to the song.
I like this one the most of hers that I’ve heard so far. Hot take alert.