May 8, 2018 Missy Higgins – Solastalgia (Album Review)
Landmarks in life serve as a turning point for learning and growth and for Australian Singer-Songwriter Missy Higgins, her latest album Solastalgia is living proof of this fact. Deriving from “comfort” and “pain,” the fifth studio album displays existentialism stemmed from the birth of her first-born. Highly anticipated by fans, Solastalgia, originally scheduled to release May 4, 2018, found itself born a week early, arriving instead on April 27th via EMI Music Australia.
Here, Higgins roams from her organic and simplistic sound last found six years ago on 2012’s The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, which was named Higgin’s third No. 1 album. Solastalgia explores new depth and territory musically, while strongly maintaining her well-known honest approach lyrically.
Consisting of 12 new songs, the album begins with sunken keys as “Starting Again” forms with dark undertones. A perky beat jumps in, paving a path for Higgins’ gentle vocals as the track builds symphonically up to an elegant bridge. Higgins cries out as higher-toned strings and lower toned drums dance.
A pulsing drum beat continues for “Cemetery,” the second leading single off the album, which sonically contrasts what is to be expected of a track entitled with a word associated with such a negative connotation. Following a Florence + the Machine vibe, layered vocals in the chorus play well with the upbeat tune which weaves a story of a past love.
Moving along, “Futon Couch” reflects on how Higgins met her husband. Lyrically, this is probably one of the cheesiest songs, but the track is cutesy and playful nonetheless; tambourines keep the toes tapping and drive the heart of the reflection. In the contrast of a heated love, “Red Moon” begins the downward spiral to the darker moods of the record. “Every part of me wants to run to wherever you are,” Higgins sings in a lower register with harmonizing background vocals. Synths flutter in like chirping birds and create a spiraling effect with the beat until it reaches combustion, where Higgins whispers into the silence, “I’d loved you.”
Additionally, distorted synths to the sound of an enhanced raindrops trickle into ominous bass. Horns build a suspenseful and climatic atmosphere, almost like getting ready for a fight back in the Roman days. Higgins creates feelings of doom and attitude as the texture becomes thick while she fights with the darkness within herself. “How was I to know I’d be a stepping to the end of everything?” Though the heaviness continues, it is almost as if she is shedding her old skin; soft hums in the background that create a hymn-like atmosphere while Higgins blissfully sings “something new and beautiful grows.” Overall, “Red Moon” can be pictured as being Alice In Wonderland influenced, or like something that would be heard on a Sci-Fi movie soundtrack.
“The Difference” takes the listener through Higgins’ thoughts and concerns for her son. Her genuine and sincere message shares musical similarities to Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be.” She ponders messages and lessons her mother told her in hopes to passing the same hope and confidence down to her child, wanting him to lead by example and be a positive difference in this ever-changing world.
Another noteworthy track is “49 Candles,” a monumental song in memorial of those lost in the 2016 Orlando shooting. Though not her strongest piece, the listener can still appreciate the beauty and effort in remembering the lives lost. Higgins shows a glimmer of her political side as she rasp-fully sings, “Another point made / Another excuse for living this way.” She asks where our voices have gone and what it is going to take to make a change in this epidemic, all while following along a marching beat.
Other mentionable tracks, “Strange Utopia” and “Hallucinate” dive deep into Higgins’ transformed sound. Both are filled with numerous questions regarding life and trying to grasp what is reality. While “Strange Utopia” can, more so, be considered a ballad – layered with funky synths, wholesome keys, and falsetto vocals – “Hallucinate” most certainly will be a personal favorite with similar attributes.
Lastly, the shortest and final song on Solastalgia, “The Old Star.” identifies more as a slam poetry piece. Like signals calling out to space, a funky bass provides a beat to futuristic sounding synths. If the listener can try to imagine a sound that is softcore alien dubstep, this piece would be it; very strange, yet very satisfying.
On Solastalgia, Higgins is in tune with her inner voice as her concerns rise for her kin. Although many fans of her older works may stray, it is worth sitting through the first wave of discomfort. Despite the feelings of distress or sadness caused by environmental change, Higgins continues to strongly channel music as her emotional outlet. Only a sliver will recognize this reference, but the transformation is fresh and invigorating like with Paramore’s 2017 album After Laughter. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Solastalgia a 4.5 out of 5 stars.