Now first let me say I’ve been and continue to be a huge fan of the Belgium-born alt-rock star and was excited to hear the direction she’s heading since departing from her acclaimed band five years ago. That said, the album disappointingly didn’t take on the first listen and has only grown on me with repeated listens. I think in part the reason Shine may fail to meet its titled purpose is the mismatched production of Brad Wood (Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins, Ben Lee). There seems to be a lot of musical confusion on here, almost an attempt to encompass too many different styles of rock, alternative, and folk which leaves me feeling I’m not exactly sure where Bettens fits in.
In many of the upbeat, heavy numbers her voice seems drowned out by the plethora of electric guitars such as on the album opener “I Can’t Get Out”, a despairing song about the helplessness of being in an abusive relationship (physical or emotional it’s not clear).
However, there are many moments on the album which solidify why Bettens has merited so much attention and an increasingly loyal fanbase to boot. Bettens proves she can definitely hold her own on an amazing rendition of Indigo Girl Amy Ray‘s “Put It Out for Good“, by far the strongest song on the release. It’s easily a repeat offender and a hit-in-waiting on AAA stations.
Still, Bettens’ warm, staple hoarse voice “shines” its best on stripped down numbers such as “Just Another Day” (“Maybe this is all I need / Tell you I was never crazy about the girl you made me be”) and “It’s Alright” (“And I’m scared as hell to go / So please don’t say you know / That I took the easy road / ’cause I’ve got nowhere else to go”). The title track “Shine” might be the perfect compromise for Bettens, a mix of adult alternative without the excessive musical arrangement. Lastly, one of the more controversial numbers, “Daddy’s Gun”, tackles the contemporary debate of gun control and showcases Bettens’ flair for songwriting. “I never want to pretend I have clear-cut solutions for gun control…I just like to offer stories that will hopefully spark conversation,” comments Bettens.
Rumor has it that K’s Choice is planning on reuniting to release a new album in 2009, which may prove to be the avenue in which Bettens is most at home. In the meantime, while it may not be the brightest star, Shine is certainly bright enough to warrant your attention.
Official website: http://www.sarahbettens.com/
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