2004 – Eleven
Folk/ Pop/ Rock
The debut album from Australian piano balladeer Missy Higgins is a rolling, weeping journey through personal pain, love, and loss. Home-grown Aussie twang, simplistic chord structures, slowly building vocals; this record has all the makings for instant chart success in the Australian market, but I’ve got to say that as a record it really doesn’t impress all that much. I mean, right from the beginning this record plays on the same conventions that musicians of this ilk have been using for years past – the sing-vocal melodies, the clichés of ambiguous metaphor, the musical construction highlighting the singer-songwriter/a-girl-and-her-piano folksiness, string sections for depth – the only real difference being that Higgins goes through the motions in an Australian accent.
Now, I’m not saying that these conventions are necessarily bad (they’ve been used to great effect by many artists prior), it’s just that by the time The Sound Of White rolls around I’ve pretty much heard it all before. There’s just not really anything new in all of this, and that, to my mind, makes for a relatively bland sounding record. I mean, as catchy as a track like Scar is, it’s catchiness is based mostly off the fact that I’ve heard about a million tracks like it before so I know exactly when the chorus is coming to sing right along, and Ten Days is only as touching as it is (which is not very) because I can predict almost every single tragic rhyme that Higgins is going to wail out.
Don’t get me wrong though, the tracks on here are well and catchy enough to make for a perfectly acceptable pop album. It’s only that I couldn’t possibly find any inlet for me to actually get involved with the music rather than just listening to it as a pretty background track to much more interesting things. I guess it’s just that with an album like this, which is so obviously angling for touching and emotional, it’s very hard to make a connection when there’s just so little of the actual artist in it. I mean, how can I really be expected to think that Casualty and The Special Two are really meant to be straight from the heart when I’ve heard so many other tracks by other artists that spew out the same ‘heartfelt’ emotions in almost exactly the same way? Am I meant to just accept this is as somehow sincere just because she sings with the same accent that I do? And I can only imagine how much more bland it would be in other countries where the novelty of an Australian singer isn’t so great.
This all said, there’s nothing particularly wrong musically with this album apart from the fact that it’s just so darned conventional. I mean, all these conventions and clichés exist because they really are catchy and make for pleasant listening and The Sound Of White is no exception to this. Everything is very pleasant even if it’s not actually interesting in any significant way, and everything is catchy even if it does make you think of all the other songs which are equally is catchy. Sometimes I did find myself forgetting my dignity and softly singing along with Higgins’ tired melodies, or nodding my head to the more raucous chord arrangements, but still I can’t say that it’s the catchiest or most fun record I’ve ever listened to.
So, my verdict here has to be that Missy Higgins’ The Sound Of White is perfectly fine for what it is. It never even comes close to approaching groundbreaking or even plain good, but it sits very comfortably in the realms of inoffensive mediocrity. There’s nothing that one could easily complain about, unless they wanted to get into a discussion about criticism and music history, but equally I don’t think that anyone could really justify any kind of actual love for this record. It’s just far too bland to love or hate.
And here’s the track Casualty, one of the catchier tunes from the album.
- Missy Higgins To Perform At A Show For Casey (noise11.com)