Tanya Donelly is a veteran in the music scene. Once a Throwing Muses member, then a Breeder, then a Belly star; Donelly has been around. In 1997, she released her debut solo album, Lovesongs For Underdogs. And now, after becoming a mother in 1999, Donelly has churned out 11 more songs for her sophomore solo album, Beautysleep.
Sure, Beautysleep's production is air-tight and cleaner than a whistle, but the music is nothing to get moist over. The problem is not really with the tracks themselves, but the album as a whole. Almost any aspiring music act could've pulled this album from the depths of their ass-cheeks. If anything, it showcases Donelly's maturity (for better or worse), resulting in her most watered-down excursion.
Beautysleep is pregnant with tremolo-guitars, synths, slide-guitars, keyboards, pianos, and just about every other conventional instrument, but it's Donelly's vocals that are yanked to the forefront -- not quite as visceral as the melodies during the Belly-era, but still heartfelt with a modest demeanor.
In under 50 minutes Mrs. Donelly weaves together an album that follows pretty much every rule/cliché in the book. It's really hard to choose the better moments on the album. Each song has a fair amount of pleasure spots, but each also has an eye-twitching moment. Example: "So Much Song" starts off fairly decent. It's one of the rare moments where the album has a chance to catch its breath -- a minimal approach with guitar, bass, and slightly reverberated vocals. But as soon as the drums kick in, you can expect nothing more than the ingredients of a remixed-for-radio Jewel song.
Definite album highlight "Life Is But A Dream" is ironically placed as track one of the album. Also ironic, is the fact that the hidden song, "Head For Math," is also one of the better tracks on the album. But the songs that are sandwiched in between are mediocre at best, normally coasting at the same pace and emotional sincerity, which seems lacking already. I'm just thankful Donelly didn't break out any drum machines.
Overall, Beautysleep sounds really out-of-date. The album is mid-'90s revisited. It's not necessarily a bad thing to have an album that conjures flashbacks from the past, but the flashbacks I get are Lilith Fair highlights on MTV and flannel and black jeans in garbage bags ready to be donated to Goodwill. Whether these flashbacks are good or bad is up to the listener. Just don't expect an album that will keep on giving, but rather an album that should have gave 6 years ago.
1. Life Is But A Dream
2. The Storm
3. The Night You Saved My Life
4. Keeping You
5. Moonbeam Monkey
6. Wrap-Around Skirt
7. Another Moment
9. So Much Song
10. The Wave
11. The Shadow (hidden track - Head For Math)