Missy Higgins’ first album in six years is a luscious collection of darkness and bliss
Words by Hayley Franklin.
Aussie pop legend Missy Higgins has released her first original album in six years, Solastalgia, and it combines her reflective songwriting with luscious soundscapes to deliver moments of yearning, sadness and bliss.
Naming the album after a form of distress created by environmental change, it’s no surprise that Solastalgia dives into some dark places. Album opener ‘Starting Again‘ begins with the signature blend of resounding piano and Higgins’ soulful voice. Sharing stories about searching for meaning, the track quickly expands into an evocative mix of electric drums, chiming bells, vocal samples and harmonies. It’s an arousing start to an album that isn’t afraid to explore the melancholy.
One of the most powerful tracks on the album is ‘How Was I To Know‘. Set in the future and looking back at all the wrong turns, Higgins approaches this track with extra swagger in her voice as she addresses mistakes of the heart and even broader issues with nods towards oil and environmental distress. With a huge outro featuring swelling brass and rhythmic backing vocals, this track is just one example of Higgins’ emotional prowess.
Towards the end of the album, dark electronic track ‘Don’t Look Down‘ faces fear and endings as Higgins’ voice shines in all of its vulnerability and strength over a hauntingly sparse soundscape. A particularly catchy pre-chorus of “This is the end” acts like a bittersweet sing-song before melting into a stoic chorus supported by warm strings and fizzling bass synths.
But despite all of the darkness, Solastalgia contains many surprising moments of bliss. Lead single ‘Futon Couch‘ is sprinkled with uplifting harmonies and snappy beats that blossom into a shimmering and vibrant chorus. ‘The Difference‘ is an inspiring anthem for change with bright piano and reaching vocals. Even ‘Cemetery‘, which is about “a relationship that felt like flirting with death; a heart-exploding kind of love that was dangerous and exhilarating but ultimately could never last,” features a thrilling and highly danceable soundtrack.
Perhaps the real strength of this dynamic album, however, is when the moments of darkness and bliss join forces. ‘Red Moon‘ is a love song set after the apocalypse and from its brooding verses to its explosive final minute, it tells a bold story of fear and love, escape and comfort. With its closing a capella line “I loved you”, it expresses a nostalgia for the past that creates both a sense of loss and gratitude.
Higgins describes “ a sense of nostalgia for something that hasn’t actually gone anywhere but it doesn’t look the same as it used to. There’s a sadness about that.” After a fourteen year career Missy Higgins hasn’t gone anywhere either but she doesn’t sound the same as she used to, and as the twelve tracks on Solastalgia show, sometimes change can be a great thing.