Bic Runga: Beautiful Collision

Bic Runga
Beautiful Collision
Sony
2002-11-05

There is the “hype” about the next CD you have to own, and there is “under the radar” in bad need of some promotion. Now there is Bic Runga’s Beautiful Collision which appears to be both hyped and under the radar at the same time.

Bic Runga is hugely popular in her native New Zealand. I hope to let you in on this CD so you will be able to tell a friend about “this great new CD” you found first, or so you can answer at your next party the question, “What is in the CD changer? Who is this?” while swelling with pride for finding a fresh voice to share or acting aloof that “they” had never heard of Bic Runga. Your choice.

My story about finding Beautiful Collision is that in consecutive months, I saw a blurb in a year-end list, an ad, a review, and a feature story. The hype is trying so hard, you can practically hear the record label guys saying, “We found a new Norah Jones.” I finally bought it unheard, hoping it was not going to be a CD that I don’t listen to that was supposed to be the next great one. I was hoping for a CD that I liked as much as I Am Shelby Lynne. Bic Runga delivered.

This album is still under the radar, since it is Bic Runga’s second CD. Her first, Drive, was recorded in 1997 while Runga was a mere 19. Her web page cites numerous awards that Drive won, including a Tui, New Zealand’s version of a Grammy. I should go online and get it. Now at age 26, Bic Runga’s Beautiful Collision took a while to recorded but it is the sound of a mature artist.

Think — Ivy, Texas, Norah Jones, Roddy Frame, and Ron Sexsmith mixed with a bit of Peter Gabriel — but not any one of them alone, it has an element of each, combined uniquely. If there is a comparison to make, Beautiful Collision is like a comfortable pair of jeans. Beautiful Collision succeeds because, in spite of being adult, literate, orchestrated, and well-executed, it is not suffocating or dull (its greatest risks) since the melodies have hooks, the spooky mysterious haunting tracks develop into something, and the songs adhere to the cardinal rule — end before four minutes. So while its “lite” enough to be a like an breeze through a window in summer, it’s also strong enough to hit repeat and play that last song again, or take along again as part of your daily soundtrack.

The first track, “When I See You Smile” is an introduction, a gentle vocal over simply plucked and strummed acoustic guitar. The next two tracks bring in the band. “Get Some Sleep” is arranged with tight harmonies and a catchy chorus, reminding me of the Beatles’ “Two of Us” from Let it Be, while “Something Good” is also a very radio-friendly track. Either would be the record label’s pick for a single (obviously teed up at the beginning of the CD).

However, it’s over the next few tracks that makes this all comes together as a complete album. Highlights include a waltzy-styled “The Be All and End All”. On “Honest Goodbyes”, the disc really takes off with a piano based break-up song, with just the right mix of strings. And the deal is sealed with the Bob-Dylan-sounding harmonica over the Wurlitzer on “Listening for the Weather”. These last two songs are very infectious pop.

Bic Runga possesses a pure, smooth, and strong voice and her talents extend beyond the vocals, she not only wrote and produced Beautiful Collision, but also played guitars, piano, Wurlitzer, harmonica, dobro, and drums on it as well.

The hype is justified. Find it before it’s processed into a commercial.

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