album reviews

Sarah McLachlan
Laws of Illusion
Arista (2010)

Kindred spirits: Dido, October Project, Enya

Sarah McLachlan's breezy folk-pop is not as fashionable as it once was; contemporary radio is no longer full of such artists as Dido and Enya, who dominated the dial during Lilith Fair's first run.

But McLachlan's songwriting approach hasn't changed much since those days, making her latest release, "Laws of Illusion," sound like a relic from the late 1990s. The album is full of the mellow, dreamy adult-alternative songs that suit her sultry voice and laid-back delivery.

The result is as lovely as any of McLachlan's earlier work. "Forgiveness" is a striking piano ballad whose simplicity elevates its heartbreak, while the new age orchestration on "Love Come" creates a swirling atmosphere. She keeps up her relaxed demeanor even on "Don't Give Up on Us," making the song sound more like a reverie than the pleading desperation in its lyrics. There are a few nods to modern hits here (the percussive piano melody on "Loving You Is Easy" is evocative of Sara Bareilles's "Love Song"), but ultimately, McLachlan sticks to what she does best instead of adapting to a more cutting-edge, contemporary sound.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 7 January 2011
.: Laws of Illusion on