Regular readers of this blog will recall that we’ve recently featured singles from Sarah MacDougall’s new album (“Empire” and “We Are Fire“). Now that the full album is out in the world, it’s a pleasure to finally get to talk about it!
On a first spin, the casual listener might classify the album as standard pop fare. To do so, however, dismisses the depth and power of the lyrics and Sarah MacDougall’s singing, by turns angry, bitter, frail, and worn. Inspired by birth (of a niece), death (of her grandparents), and the breakup of a relationship, MacDougall draws deep from her emotional well and the result is a moving album with which most of us can definitely connect emotionally.
“Empire,” the opening track, sets the bar high for the project with its unsparing deconstruction of a breakup’s aftermath. She then follows up with “We Are Fire,” her tribute to a non-binary friend and the courage of those who are brave enough to confront boundaries and be themselves. “Drifting Away” offers a piercing look both at the gradual erosion of relationships as people change, and the ways in which so many of us question our hopes and dreams, believing that perhaps they’re “asking too much (I feel guilty all the time)… (I need more than this).”
“Baby, I Know” provides one of the emotional pinnacles of the album – deeply heartfelt singing accompanied only by MacDougall’s fingerstyle guitar. Described as “a love song for the givers who often go unrecognized,” it should move all but the hardest of hearts. For this listener, however, “Cruel Spring” is the song to which I’ve found myself returning over the past few days. The mix of emotions it conveys – weariness, passion, regret, sadness – are a powerful wave.
“All the Hours I Have Left to Tell You Anything” is an accomplished project from a musician who is gifted in bringing emotions to the fore, and also in reining them in when necessary. I look forward to exploring more of Sarah MacDougall’s music.