The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle
“Take my brain and break it in two” Missy Higgins sings on album opener, Set Me On Fire. It’s a plea to herself in the midst of her crippling writers block, which developed into depression and kept Higgins out the music industry for 5 years. After decamping to Nashville, taking up rock climbing, and meeting up with producers Butterfly Boucher and Brad Jones, she broke through the haze and recorded her third album.
These songs read like a journal of the frustrating years, streaked with anger and desperation as she tries to regain her songwriting ability. In despite, or perhaps because of this, her third record is the most expansive and intimate record that she has released, with influences flowing from bluegrass to country to dance pop.
First track Set Me On Fire is a pop track with a dark core, with Higgins chastising herself with gentle harmonies and thudding piano. Hello Hello moves with a swinging beat and jumping piano backing as she wonders aloud whether anybody is listening anymore.
Moving into denser realms, the single Unashamed Desire boils over with heavy beats and creepy harmonies, as Higgins tells us to “cut open my heart and turn on the light”. It’s a standout on the album, displaying her talent for a crisp chorus hook- but this time it’s cut with a heady dose of rage.
Christmas carol harmonies open up drifting Everyone’s Waiting, before song All In My Head cracks open the reasons for her writer’s block with the help of an orchestra. Things take a wonderfully bizarre turn when Temporary Love blatantly rips off eighties dance track Holding Out For A Hero.
Watering Hole is an unexpected standout, a swampy blues track recalling The Waifs with a dusty backing of acoustic guitar and a curdling harmonica solo. It’s a far cry from Tricks, a radio ready pop number concerned with chasing lovers. The final four tracks swing from the country drenched If I’m Honest, to the ballad Cooling Of The Embers, to the democratic call to march of Hidden Ones. Sweet Arms Of A Tune carries the record away with a vintage Higgins acoustic track.
No longer content with sunny acoustic songs, Higgins has returned with a surprisingly dark and raw record.