By Solvej Schou
The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), October 6, 2005
Is Liz Phair a commercial sellout, just ambitious, or a maturing musician?
Her last album, 2003’s “Liz Phair,” signaled the 38-year-old’s foray into sleek commercial pop, sparking outcries from critics and fans alike. She enlisted the mainstream hand of producing trio The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Hilary Duff), but only had the moderate hit single “Why Can’t I.”
With her fifth album “Somebody’s Miracle,” Phair dropped The Matrix while making yet another pop record: less blatantly commercial, but still smooth, reflecting her increasing shift toward a clearer sound.
Phair’s guitarist John Alagia produced most of “Miracle’s” acoustic-electric tunes, with boyfriend and bandmate Dino Meneghin also producing.
Songs range from the Sheryl Crow-esque single “Everything to Me” to the love-lost “Count On My Love.” Awash in spangly tones, they’re more about introspection than head bopping, unlike “Liz Phair.”
The lyrically strong downer “Table for One,” for instance, is impressive for its stark imagery of a middle-aged woman in crisis. “I”m backing out of the driveway and into creation,” Phair sings.
Directly influenced by Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” “Miracle” references an adult-minded tone. She’s a mother, she’s older, she’s in love. Her former crackling monotone doesn’t quite soar as much as glide.
And true, Phair is not the same indie chanteuse who spat and shocked her way through 1993’s dirty debut “Exile in Guyville,” but she can still nail you with a major chord or splintered word.
Featured Image: Liz Phair in 2003 (Photo credit needed)