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Sixpence None The Richer - Divine Discontent Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 October 2002
Divine Discontent,
Reprise Records, 2002
| Performance 7 | Sound 8 |

ImageDiscontent is a truly polite emotional word – at least as expressions of emotion go -- and as such, it is an appropriate term to be associated with the ever-so-courteous Sixpence None The Richer. So while vocalist Leigh Nash's little-girl singing may incorporate cries and whispers, she never resorts to any Alanis Morrisette-like anger outbursts, or Madonna-esque bragging rites. Strangely enough, Divine Discontent makes even some of life's most unpleasant experiences still appear pretty -- at least within Sixpence's uniquely divine worldview.
Sixpence has never been ashamed to give away its obvious musical influences, and just as the group covered The La's "There She Goes" on its most recent album, the Nashville-based outfit has now included a take on Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." Much like these two bands that they have honored with song reinterpretations, Sixpence also puts “being melodic” at the very top of its to-do list. Such a beatific musical trait makes its recent commercial success all the more surprising, especially since the airwaves are seemingly filled to overflowing with angry posturing and rhythm-centered sounds. Sixpence sometimes appears to be a bunch of out-of-place party-crashers, at least within this contemporary big picture. It’s like they’re having a little tea party, right in the middle of a noisy frat bash.

Steve Martin used to do a bit where he would demonstrate how it was nearly impossible to sound sad or depressed while playing a banjo: This joyous instrument just lends itself to grinning and plucking. And Sixpence can also seem a little too precious for its own good -- as if flowers can brighten up even the darkest dungeon. Much of this happy quotient propensity once again falls back on Nash’s singing; even when she’s vocalizing sad thoughts, they nonetheless come out like candy kisses. And when you add sparkling keyboards, chiming guitars and almost instantly memorable tunes to its sweets jar, this album just can’t help but leave one with a contented impression.

Sixpence may not be the most evangelistic bunch of Christian musicians you’ll ever meet, yet the single “Breathe Your Name” could just as easily be about God as about a lover. Likewise, the prayerful “Waiting On The Sun” might well be better titled “Waiting On The Son,” simply because of its overt spiritualism.

Divine Discontent is an album of muted orchestral pop, formed with lots of acoustic guitar, tinkling pianos and unobtrusive strings. But Nash's voice is always this outfit's central focus. It's a real thing of aural beauty when her voice half-yodels on a track called "Still Burning" here. No doubt about it, she's this group's greatest source of listener contentment. Ultimately, all of Sixpence's quieted discontentment is nothing less than simply divine on the old ears.

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