Alternative band Sixpence None the Richer is a melancholy soul's perfect match. While I understand some not connecting with the wistful and occasionally gloomy vibe, they have been a source of encouragement and solidarity for my often restless soul for many years. I'm grateful they have been a band that only grows more poignant with each passing season cemented now as an all-time favorite.
Oh, and they can rock. Yes. This their sophomore album, This Beautiful Mess, is the culmination of them becoming a full band adding three official members that all put a stamp on the evolving sound. Tess Wiley joined to add rhythm guitar, additional female harmonies, and a more aggressive rock edge. Additionally, J.J. Plasencio jumps in on bass adding some thump, and Dale Baker on drums adds his respective jazz background to round out the rhythm section.
For my money, the strongest section of this rock-solid album is the first four tracks where they showcase a more aggressive edge musically that is juxtaposed perfectly with Leigh's angelic voice. But that doesn't mean she can't dig deep and belt; she is in no way overpowered by the music. "Angeltread," "Love, Salvation, The Fear of Death" (what a cool bass line), and "Within a Room Somewhere" could easily compete for being the album's best song, but my heart has always been with "Within a Room Somewhere." To this day, it's still my overall favorite song by the band.
After that four-song run, the band wisely slows the tempo, allowing for a cool-down period ending on another rocking note with "Drifting" and closer "I Can't Explain." But the middle section is also where we get Leigh's first real attempt at lyrics in "The Garden," and Tess Wiley's "Disconnect," which on the past few listens of TBM has become a newer favorite. There's just something about the hook that... well... hooks me. Also, "Thought Menagerie" is a pleasant jangly pop ride that fits perfectly at this juncture in the latter half of the album.
All things considered, This Beautiful Mess is a big bump in quality from their debut, and showcases a band that has a better feel for who they want to be musically. Each member adds something noteworthy, and it makes for what I think is a great album in CCM, released within my favorite year for music and in my favorite decade of music. This is a record that stands up to anything going on in the mainstream at the time and I wish it had been recognized as such. That said, I look forward to the continued discovery of nuance with each successive listen, and cannot recommend it enough to those who may have missed it at the time of its release. This is a must for fans of 90s alternative rock, and jangle pop, and those digging deeper into the history of Contemporary Christian Music.- Review date: 8/17/23, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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