Another week, another 2 or 3 sensitive female singer-songwriters. The market’s in danger of becoming over saturated with too many Norahs, Lucies, Katies, and, um, KTs, but here comes Missy Higgins to try to join them in the nation’s heart. But does she have something a bit different to make her stand out from the crowd?
Well, she’s Australian for one thing, and unlike her compatriots Natalie Imbruglia, Kylie Minogue and Delta Goodrem, she didn’t precede her music career with a role in Neighbours. Instead, after winning the prestigious Aussie talent show Triple J Unearthed in 2001 when she was still at high school, she took a year out to go travelling around Europe.
Most people come back from backpacking round Europe to a few months of working in a call centre, but Higgins returned to a record deal with WEA records. The Sound Of White has already gone six times platinum in her native country, so there’s obviously a fair amount of hope from her record company that she’ll repeat her success over here.
Higgins certainly has a distinctive and unusual voice, with her Australian accent showing through on several tracks. Over the course of an album this becomes a bit grating, but it does suit some of the more intimate songs, especially the single Ten Days. The latter is one of the best tracks here in fact, a classic break-up song that’s designed to be wept over by as many potential Bridget Jones as possible.
Scar is another gem, one of the few uptempo tracks on the album, mixing a catchy piano riff to some strummed guitars to pleasing effect. The lyrics too are excellent, and belie Higgins’ tender years by being both revealing and mature (“I’m a little bit tired of fearing that I’ll be the bad fruit nobody buys”).
The trouble with The Sound Of White is that there’s far too many piano ballads, which prove wearying over an hour or so. Sometimes, the ballads are excellent, such as Don’t Ever, which fantasises about a future domesticated bliss with lyrics such as “We’ll make friends with the milk man/and the butcher Mr. Timms will give us discounts when he can”. By the time the second half of the album is underway though, you’re itching to hear another side of Higgins.
This other side never appears though. Songs such as Katie and The Special Two are pleasant but don’t have much substance and the jazzy stylings of This Is How It Goes is about as daring as it gets. Producer John Porter (who worked with Ryan Adams on the Love Is Hell sessions) lends everything a polished sheen, but sometimes it would be nice to hear a bit more heart.
Ultimately, The Sound Of White is, well, nice. It’ll make a soothing accompaniment to many a dinner party and will no doubt please those who hear the single and want to investigate further. But if she wants to impinge on people’s consciousness then she’ll need that fabled ‘x-factor’ – which, sadly, isn’t here at the moment.