Release Date: February 26, 2008
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska
It might come as a surprise to many Americans that Missy Higgins is an extraordinarily well-known musician in her native country of Australia since most people in the U.S. will not have heard of her. Her 2004 EP, Scar, debuted at number one on the Australian music charts and Higgins’ debut full-length album was engineered by Jay Newland, known for his work with Norah Jones. Higgins most recent album, On A Clear Night, was actually released in Australia in 2007 and in the U.S. in early 2008, but is getting additional notice with the start of Higgins’ headlining tour in the U.S.
Higgins clearly has a knack for writing poignant folk-rock songs and there are very few slip-ups on On A Clear Night. The opening track “Where I Stood” displays Higgins’ vocal talent as well as her skill on the piano. The simple melody and good harmonies make the song a nice opener for the rest of the album. “100 Round The Bends” is an attempt at a funkier and faster song but, unfortunately, it feels a little forced with too much vocal vibrato and too many flourishes.
Higgins fares better on songs where she keeps things simpler and sticks more to her standard style. “Steer” manages to find a middle-ground between the slower, more melancholy sounds of “Where I Stood” and the faster-paced, but problematic “100 Round The Bends.” The track is somewhat more pop-oriented without sounding like Higgins is trying to be more of an R & B singer than she is.
“Sugarcane” is one of the most haunting songs on the album with a relatively simple narrative and delicate melody. The track is also one of the few places where Higgins’ Australian accent comes through but it only adds a unique flourish and lets listeners know that there’s more to Higgins than they might initially realize.
“The Wrong Girl” is another standout track with the inclusion of a slightly jaunty beat and some interesting drumming behind Higgins’ vocals. Overall, the album is extremely strong displaying Higgins’ ability to pull in a variety of other musical genres and making them her own. While “100 Round The Bends” falls a little flat, the rest of the tracks don’t have that problem and make for an interesting and enjoyable album.