Twenty years later I find myself more and more appreciating the music that came out of the 90s decade. For me (and others), the 90s was “my decade” that defined all of my moods, my interests, my discovery of who I wanted to be. Whenever you’re in something, you can’t really appreciate the beauty of it until you’re no longer there ─ that’s how I feel about 90s music. There was so much variety, and interesting artistry going on from a myriad of artists. The acts that achieved success during this time period span all genres of music – it’s pretty amazing.
One of those artists who really hit a nerve in me was Sarah McLachlan. These days it’s sometimes difficult to remember the artist she was before she was on every radio station, before Lilith Fair, before hearing her music for animal cruelty commercials. Back in 1993, she was still on the fringe of big success and really emerging as a different and unique voice from Canada. Like Sinead O’Connor and Tori Amos before her, Sarah was our voice ─ our distinct point of view on life.
Twenty years ago, Sarah’s third album, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was released. I can say without hesitation that in 20 years, there has not been another record from a female artist that has resonated so profoundly in my heart, nor stirred me so. For 20 years I have been listening to this record, and I still get something out of it, and simultaneously remember all of the feelings it stirred in me when I heard it for the first time.
In my estimation, it usually takes three albums into a career where an artist firmly gets into their mission statement of what they want to create. Both of Sarah’s two previous records, Touch and Solace were strong indicators of what was to come. But it was Fumbling that solidified Sarah’s true vision and path as an artist.
So what’s the big deal with this album? It’s one of the few albums in my life that when I listen to it, I see color. And more specifically, I feel color. The songs are really like poems – each and every one, filled with fearlessness and a vulnerability that is so tangible and raw, that you almost felt like she was taking the core elements of your feelings and putting words and notes to them. Courage is what is heard on every song on this album. I also believe that it’s a very Canadian perspective record as well. Like Joni Mitchell’s Blue before her, when you listen to Sarah’s Fumbling you can feel and hear that the cosmos was transmitting something unique to her in the creation of this album, that this was something different on the sonic landscape that wasn’t being heard in mainstream American music.
The loneliness of “Elsewhere,” the urgency of “Hold On,” the creepiness of “Fear,” the happiness of “Ice Cream,” the openness of new love in “Good Enough“ and the vulnerability of allowing oneself to fall in love (the basis of the title track) – each song tells an intricate story that with each listen never gets old.
Sarah McLachlan is renowned for taking a very long time between records. She has released many greatest hits, concert records, and a Christmas album in between. There have only been three original records since Fumbling was released. She is currently working on a new record right now, with a release date sometime in 2014. I will be curious to see what her muse will create this time around.
Related link: Revisiting The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lover of music, movies and words, Merrill Matthews lives in Montreal but carries some Toronto in his heart. Full time husband, full time father. Tweet him @merrill_matth