Sixpence None The Richer – Lost in Transition

January 01, 1970

(self-released)

 

www.sixpencehq.com

 

 

Two points that Lost in Transition raises that have
nothing to do with music are: 1) This album marks twenty years as a band for
Nashville-based Sixpence None The Richer (Twenty years!);  and 2) for nearly half of that time, the band
has been broken up / on hiatus / going through (aptly) a transition (as
founding member Mark Slocum says on press for the record).

 

It was in 2002 that
Sixpence released its last studio album, Divine
Discontent
, a sprawling, major label with a cast of 30-plus players
including a 25-member strings section. (There was also a Christmas album in
2008, but do Christmas albums even count?) In ’04 Slocum announced the group
had parted ways and in ’06 co-founding member Leigh Nash released her solo
album Blue On Blue.

 

What ever tumult
occurred in the intervening years, Sixpence reunited in late ’07 and began
recording again in ’10. The album was originally set to be titled Strange Conversation and released in
August of that year; record label problems pushed the date back several times.
But finally it (now called Lost in
Transition
) is here. Really, truly here.

 

And it’s good.

 

The 12-song record
opens with “My Dear Machine,” with a wash of guitars and drums followed by a
second wave of horns jabbing brightly through reverb. It’s an energetic punch,
with aggressive and smooth forces carefully balanced. Nash’s
instantly-recognizable voice floats clear over the bombast below. But it’s this
song (released four years ago as the title track to an EP; “Sooner Than Later”
from that EP also appears on Transition)
that introduces 2012’s Sixpence as a band less ringing, less sweet, less
starry-eyed than the band that released its eponymous album 15 years ago.

 

There’s a bittersweet
undercurrent to Transition. It’s not
an album transfixed by its scars, but songs like “Radio” (“I remember when you
drove all night, you took me home in the morning light. You were my anthem, you
were my creed. You were all I’d ever need”) and the slower, pulse-thick
“Failure” (“Time is not my friend anymore”) nod to illusions faded and happy
endings unfulfilled. But even on these songs, the heavy themes are juxtaposed
with driving percussion here, gorgeous steel guitar there.

 

The band has not lost
its taste for big, orchestral gestures. “Don’t Blame Yourself” is a fortress of
sound and “Give It Back,” a contemplative and cinematic number, is all stormy
skies and building drama. The latter, too, is where Sixpence shows its
Christian roots. Though the band has never been preachy in its songwriting,
it’s documented that Nash and Slocum met at a church camp, and the band name
comes from a line in C.S. Lewis’ Mere
Christianity
. That said, without those bits of trivia (and the fact that Transition‘s genre is given as
“religious”), the album is an expansive work of instrumental and vocal
composition, mature songwriting and themes of love, loss and growth.

 

But even as Sixpence
shows off its progress, it also retains what was best about its earlier
iterations. “Go Your Way” opens with jangly guitar and high, twinkling notes
reminiscent of “Kiss Me.” When the piano comes in and Nash’s voice rises into a
lush and dreamy chorus, the magic is there, fully preserved and shimmering with
youth and summer and a field of fireflies. “I loved you then, I love you still,
now. Don’t think that I’ve forgotten how,” sings Nash.

 

The fireflies (aptly)
are short-lived. The album wraps with “Be OK,” resonant with kick drum, the
guitars wailing and Nash’s vocal soaring to its upper register. Though the
message is just what the title suggests, it feels more like a plea than a
promise. But it’s also a big statement. It stares down the void; it calls up
the darkness with a Cranberries-esque fierceness made 2012 relevant. And, yet,
the song – and the album as a whole – is true to Sixpence as we’ve known them,
as we’ve needed them to be, while also remaining true to who Nash and Slocum
are, going forward. Welcome back, Sixpence.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “My Dear Machine,” “Go Your Way” ALLI MARSHALL

 

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