The Good: Wonderful lyrics, Amazing voice and great music!
The Bad: Nothing major, minor production quirk, Short.
The Basics: Buy this album if you are tired of the ordinary and want something working on deeper levels. If you're a teenybopper fluffchick, don't bother.
To say that Heather Nova's Oyster was her US breakout album is somewhat ironic given that the vast majority of people still have not heard of this amazing artist. This might seem odd coming from me, who has only posted two reviews (so far!) of Heather Nova's works, with my reviews of Siren (here!) and The Jasmine Flower (here!), though Nova is my favorite musical artist. But with so much music to transfer, Nova's works got strangely buried and today I am happy to rectify that. Back in 1995, many radio stations across the U.S. discovered Heather through her single "Walk This World." The joy to those who discovered Heather Nova before or since is that "Walk This World" isn't even her best track. In fact, it's not even the best track on Oyster.
Oyster's easy richness is found in the lyrics of Heather Nova and her depth and scope is impressive. From the dreamlike images of "Truth and Bone" ("I think of sinking in way over my shoulders, let the water, the water take me in and I need you to cut through to where I'm hidden . . ."), the poetic euphemisms of "Walk This World" ("I see you in the garden and I feel you plant the seed . . .") to the stark realism of "Sugar" it is immediately evident that Heather Nova can write! More than that, she can - and does - sing. She has an amazing voice combined with lyrics that are insightful and magical.
Her very strengths are what make the album unmarketable from a business perspective. That is, this album is not music for the 12 - 18 year old cd buying range. It is adult music dealing with emotions and situations with intelligence, insight and a larger sense of theme and purpose. I say, it's about time! Heather Nova's uniqueness and lyricism should be what's on the radio.
Her songs sing about love in a deep, meaningful way, as opposed to the fleeting, sugary romance of today's teens in the Blonde Revolution (my term for the whole Britney, Christina, Jessica, etc. phenomenon). More than that, she sings of loss and wounds. The simple fact that she tackles abusive relationships and their lingering results is a powerful thing. That she does so with style and lyrics filled with amazing imagery is another.
The only weakness of the album is in minor production aspects, though each of the songs are expertly put together by producers Felix Tod and Youth. But the arrangement on the album occasionally comes into question. For example, putting two thematically similar and like-sounding songs as "Heal" and "Island" back to back and so close to the beginning of the album was a mistake.
The album is otherwise solid and it is a hair's width from perfection. It is an excellent album, but not a perfect one. The strongest links are "Truth and Bone" (which IS a perfect song!) and "Walk This World" and the weakest track is probably "Heal."
For other works by strong female artists, please check out my reviews of:
Many Great Companions - Dar Williams
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix - Sophie B. Hawkins
Laws Of Illusion - Sarah McLachlan
For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.