Monday, May 14, 2018

Review of Rachael Sage's "Myopia"

I posted this review earlier this morning on the Sputnik Music site:

Review Summary: While Sage makes it clear that she sees the darker side of life, she chooses to focus on the positive. This is her own special form of "myopia".

New York City songstress Rachael Sage has just released her 14th studio album. Entitled Myopia, the LP is among her best works yet. Here's my only admonition -- pessimists, cynics, Debbie Downers and other revelers in the dark emotions be forewarned: While the album does contain a few somber songs (including a ballad written just for misanthropes), on the whole, Myopia is almost relentlessly upbeat. The first track smacks you right in the face with all of the reasons that it's good to be alive, and continues on from there. So if you're looking for some music to consume alongside a tequila and a bottle of sleeping pills, you're gonna want to look elsewhere.

For those unfamiliar with her (which judging by her Sputnik Music page includes almost everyone on this site), Sage is a former dancer and show kid who has spent the last twenty years or so carving out a nice little indie music career for herself. She looks like a happier Tori Amos, and her music is a kind of folk-pop blend (with maybe just a dash of cabaret) that calls to mind such disparate artists as Amos, Suzanne Vega, Regina Spektor and Sheryl Crow. In the past, many of her recordings have been heavily piano-based, but on this LP, she's made a conscious decision to record songs that rely more heavily on the guitar. Her music, especially lately, also tends to make good use of underlying string instruments like violins and cellos, which adds a special richness to the sound.

On the whole, the first half of the album seems slightly stronger than the second -- that's where you'll find most of my favorite songs, anyway. This list includes the single "Spark", which has recently been challenging artists like Taylor Swift and Kesha on the FMQB's Adult Comtemporary chart; "Olivia", an ode to the Mariska Hargitay character on the Law & Order SVU television show; and the title track "Myopia", a tribute to self-confidence and triumph over emotional nearsightedness.

The few darker numbers on here include "Sympathy Seed", a song sung from the perspective of a bitter and empty person who wishes they had more human empathy ("I do not possess what I was I were filled with/I wish I were filled with the sympathy seed"); "Daylight", about a woman trying to find a way to deal with her combat-veteran partner, who has come back from the war a changed person; and "Maybe She'll Have Cats," a musical reproach to a father who is overly judgmental of his teen daughter's sexual transgressions ("Someday she'll be older/None of this will matter/No one's gonna wonder/Who she kissed in her heyday"). 

In spite of tracks like these, though, the album as a whole still comes down heavily on the optimistic side of life. Whether she's playfully singing a punked out version of the Yiddish song "Umru Mayne", or closing the album with a sentimental look at sisterhood ("Sistersong 2018"), Sage makes it clear that it's not that she doesn't see darkness in the world; she just chooses to put her focus on the positive. This is her own special form of "myopia". And I'm just fine with that.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars