Album review

Heartbreak and pop catharsis

Sarah McLachlan. Sarah McLachlan. (Mario Anzuoni/ Reuters)
June 14, 2010

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Producing a strong pop album is probably cold comfort when the sacrifice is a marriage. But the collapse of Sarah McLachlan’s union gives her first album of new material in seven years a compelling pathos and narrative throughline that should resonate with the part of her fanbase familiar with romantic devastation. In other words, all of her fanbase.

If that sounds depressing, it is in some ways. (And it’s an added bummer that one of the few “happy’’ songs, “Loving You Is Easy,’’ doesn’t generate much excitement since the tempo is so plodding and McLachlan’s vocal so placid.) But from tremulous opener “Awakenings’’ (“The cracks began to show as soon as things got hard’’) to the gut-wrenching “Forgiveness’’ (“I don’t want your deceiving smile at my door’’), this is pop music as catharsis. They’re the kinds of songs whose melancholy is touching, but the melodious burnish on them leaves you feeling better.

From a production standpoint, McLachlan and longtime coproducer Pierre Marchand haven’t lost a step. All of McLachlan’s sonic trademarks are present and accounted for — dreamy keyboard washes, lilting rhythms, that angelic voice. They’re combined with her raw emotion in a beguiling manner that ranges from ethereal to rollicking. “Heartbreak,’’ a twinkly and sly ode to outrunning sadness, would be a surefire hit if pop radio were to embrace it. (Out tomorrow) -- SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “Forgiveness’’

Sarah McLachlan performs at Lilith Fair at the Comcast Center July 30.

Sarah McLachlan, Laws of Illusion