The Good: Lyrics, Voice, Arrangement, Music, this is It! A perfect album!
The Bad: NONE! Absolutely none!
The Basics: Siren is a wonderful album with a strong female artist, in the primary or two-disc version!
Heather Nova's 1998 release Siren is available in at least two forms; single cd and with a bonus cd. Both versions are absolute perfection. There's the easy to find single version which is perfect and the version with the extra cd that is, if at all possible, more perfect. The bonus c.d. contains two acoustic versions to previously released Heather Nova tracks ("Walk This World," from her album "Oyster" and "London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)" from Siren) and three other Heather Nova songs not found on any other albums of hers. The double disc is an import and may be difficult to find; the single disc Siren is available pretty much everywhere, usually dirt cheap now that it has been a few years.
Heather Nova's lyrics are sharp as ever with imagery ("Paper Cup"), emotion ("Valley of Sound") and force ("I'm The Girl") and the unerring quality of this album is testament to her lasting greatness. It's a shame that so few people have actually heard of Heather Nova, as her lyrics are insightful to the human condition and easily resonate with people of all ages. Take Nova's wrenching and wistful piece on nostalgia, "What a Feeling." Here her lines expertly express the nature of retrospect: "Life is only half way in our hands / Years have passed while I was making plans / And I could never find the words / I always felt absurd, and always outside" ("What A Feeling").
It's too bad more musical artists do not pay as much attention to what it is they want to say, what they want to evoke as Heather Nova does. Her lyrics are poetry, but meaningful and resonate in a way that make her accessible to all audiences.
While singles from this album ("London Rain" and "Heart and Shoulder") have been successfully marketed to teen audiences, this album remains an adult work, exploring deeper experiences and emotions as she does in "I'm Alive" and "Ruby Red." Her song "I'm Alive" continues her trend of openly singing about abuse and surviving it. Unlike "artists" who exploit their discontent, like Pink, Nova focuses on the emotion; the humanity in real, adult and she has incredibly visual expression. She's easy to identify with, regardless of experience. So even when she is singing about horrible experiences she has lived through, they are presented in a universal enough way to be experienced by all people.
Heather Nova is a rock artist. It's silly to say she's a female rocker, because she rocks with the best of them, male or female. She is, in the most true sense, an artist. Her passion is revealed in her elegant lines that resonate with deep emotion. "Avalanche," for example perfectly captures the feeling of being overwhelmed by the world around us and when she sings the opening lines "I lie in a field, in the trailer-park of my dreams / Saving up for someday. / But what does someday mean?" we're hooked. She has a message and, unlike most younger artists currently popular, she has experience to back it up. She has a maturity that makes her ideal listening for adults.
Similarly, she has an amazing voice that is only occasionally enhanced by studio effects. When she does use things like reverb or backing vocals, they are used only to highlight her natural voice, not compensate for a lack of vocal talent. She has the talent and on Siren, she exhibits it perfectly.
Heather Nova's primary instrument outside her amazing voice is the guitar and it's refreshing to listen to a musical artist who knows more than three chords. As well as playing acoustic guitar on Siren, Heather plays violin on "Widescreen" and "Paper Cup." It's amazing how talented she is and that talent is evident in every moment of this fourteen track album.
Quite simply, there are no drawbacks to this album, so long as you like female rockers and if you don't, this is the album that can change your mind. It is an experience. The acoustic tracks on the double c.d. version only enhance that experience. The weakest link would be "Blood of Me" which is a perfectly upstanding song but has the misfortune of following one of the best opening songs on an album ever ("London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)". It's a rare thing to find an album whose best track is impossible to define because they are all great. My favorite track often changes.
This is the perfect album and all audiences will find something to like about it!
For other female artists with a great sound, please check out my reviews of:
Mortal City - Dar Williams
Laws Of Illusion - Sarah McLachlan
One Cell In The Sea - A Fine Frenzy
For other music reviews, please check out my index page!
© 2010, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.