Bless This Mess
Lisa Mitchell’s sophomore album was never going to be an easy one to make. Her debut, 2009’s Wonder, defied all expectations, and turned the Australian Idol contestant into a certified indie darling, nabbing the No. 7 position for “Coin Laundry” in the Triple J Hottest 100 and more impressively, taking home the Australian Music Prize.
The formula which made Wonder so successful was simple: sunny, blissed out pop tunes that were easy on the ears but intelligent enough to keep you listening. Bless This Mess takes a different road, with Mitchell stretching her musical muscles and stripping back the quirkiness.
The openers, “Providence” and “So Much To Say”, rely heavily on the piano with strange orchestral flourishes and vocal chants emerging at odd times. The strength lies in Mitchell’s songwriting, with enough minor falls and major lifts and pop hooks to hit the spot. Things get a little messy on “The Story of the Raven and the Mushroom Man”, where Mitchell tries a little bit of everything and winds up sounding trite. Likewise the sitar raga of “The Present” aims for George Harrison but gets Rebecca Black instead. The sunny bubbles are still here though with the single “Spiritus” racing along with calypso drums and threatening to explode with cheerfulness.
Slower tracks such as “The Land Beyond the Front Door” are throwbacks to Wonder days, with Mitchell’s fragile voice wafted over a simple backing. It rubs up against the title track, a huge power ballad threaded with earworm hooks that’s bound to become a festival staple.
“Diamond In the Rough” and “I Know You’re Somewhere” are beautiful gems that come at the end of the record, with Mitchell’s vocals gentle against a piano and guitar. The raga returns with an 8 minute dub outro which fares a lot better than her previous attempt.
With so many ideas mashed together in a single record, Bless This Mess comes off a bit untidy, the result of Mitchell doing too much with too little time. There are enough glimpses of Mitchell’s formidable talent though, to make this a solid record and a steady platform for the future.
Key Tunes: “I Know You’re Somewhere”, “Bless This Mess”, “Spiritus”