Friday, April 16, 2010

Leave Your Sleep, Natalie Merchant

It is the same complaint I have with many artists as they mature. Once they have a child, the music starts to change. Dar Williams, Ben Folds, Ani Difranco, etc. And, now, Natalie Merchant. She has created an album of poems turned to songs. The concept is interesting. But, it smells a bit of adult contemporary. Merchant created this album after she found herself reading/singing poems to her daughter.

Most of Merchant's music has crossed the lines of pop/folk/world music. So, it seems odd to make a complaint of her doing the exact same thing here. But, this time, something is missing. It is the lyrics? She has collected a great selection of poems. My complaint is not in the lyrics. Other than they aren't her lyrics. It has been 9 years since Merchant last released an album of her own music, 2001's fantastic Motherland. I miss that Natalie Merchant.

Her last two releases have basically been cover albums. The House Carpenter's Daughter and Leave Your Sleep are all about the past. And, I think it is good for an artist to explore their roots and their influences. But, when it starts to consume the entirety of your releases, something is amiss. Perhaps, Merchant is a bit dried up. Perhaps, writer's block has started to consume her. If this is true, I just need this to be stated. I respect an artist who just finds themselves stuck for a bit. I struggle respecting an artist who just ignores their own ability.

The greatest aspect of the album is Merchant's ability to make a few of these poems sound so much like her own songs (ee cummings 'maggie and milly and molly and may' and Robert Graves 'Vain and Careless'). This speaks to her ability to make something her own, but also her strength in some writing in the past.


No comments:

Post a Comment