Sarah McLachlan: Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff Volume 2

McLachlan is an inimitable vocal talent able to bring her ability to bear on others' material, skillfully interpreting words and melodies in virtually any context.

Sarah McLachlan

Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff Volume 2

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2008-04-29
UK Release Date: 2008-04-28

For an artist whose music is as beautifully mysterious as Sarah McLachlan's (at the risk of sounding hackneyed, McLachlan's hit "Building a Mystery" could itself be a fitting descriptor of her ethereal, otherworldly expression), it's a wonder that McLachlan foregoes the need to be, in and of herself, a mystery to her fans. With multiple live albums and now a second volume of rarities and B-sides, McLachlan does an admirable job of inviting her audience into her world, giving them full access to the scope and breadth of her work. McLachlan seems unafraid to let listeners hear songs that were deemed unworthy of inclusion on her albums or were released outside her sphere of control, on a soundtrack or another artist's project.

On the first Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff collection, released in 1996, McLachlan could claim a certain amount of ownership over the material. The 13 cuts on that collection included nine which bore McLachlan's signature, as writer or co-writer. Such is not the case this time around. There are just three original McLachlan tunes among 14 here (one is her arrangement of the traditional "Prayer of St. Francis"). This project feels more like a McLachlan covers album. She interprets the material of a variety of songsmiths, including Lennon/McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Dave Stewart and Randy Newman.

The unique nature of this record bears witness to two truths about McLachlan. First, she is an inimitable vocal talent able to bring her ability to bear on others' material, skillfully interpreting words and melodies in virtually any context. The second, unfortunately, is that while she is more than able to infuse others' songs with her style, she sounds most at home on her material, where she has the creative control to craft the soundscapes and textures which best give shape and being to her artistic voice. With no discernable thread or theme to this album, other than culling recordings which have occurred since the last B-sides project, it lacks the unity and focus McLachlan normally brings to her work.

With regards to cover songs, the mark of a gifted artist is their ability to re-contextualize a tune so that it retains the creative spark of its author while somehow simultaneously sounding like a natural piece of the recording artist's catalog, an extension of their musical vision. There are several cuts here which feel like vintage McLachlan. They provide the most enjoyable and comforting moments on the record. These include a glorious take on Mitchell's classic "River" which first appeared on McLachlan's 2006 holiday record Wintersong . McLachlan sounds as if she was born to record this song. Her take on the Beatles' "Blackbird", from the I Am Sam soundtrack, and her duet with Bryan Adams on "Don't Let Go", penned by Adams and several other writers, sound as if they could have fit within the borders of a "normal" McLachlan record. Her arrangement of "Prayer of St. Francis" is also a glorious and sweetly reverent moment.

Other songs seem like such a departure that they are distracting and ultimately dissatisfying. McLachlan's lending of her vocals to the DMC/"Cat's in the Cradle" mashup was an unfortunate choice of collaborations. The idea probably sounded great in the brainstorming stage, but proves to be rather over-the-top. McLachlan's attempt to re-interpret "Unchained Melody" and turn it into a subtler, more restrained tune denies the grandeur and greatness of the song's original melody. "Homeless," which teams McLachlan with Ladysmith Black Mambazo to give fresh life to their Graceland pairing with Paul Simon, works overall, but McLachlan's contribution is lost in the mix, buried beneath the weight of the other vocalists.

Beyond the good and the bad, there are a few curious choices which are fine, quality-wise, but just seem strange. McLachlan's take on "The Rainbow Connection" as well as soundtrack cuts like "Ordinary Miracle" and "When She Loved Me" are a bit too poppy for an artist who has made a career of taking pop/rock structures and adding gorgeous, unique layers to them. If McLachlan truly has built a career by building a mystery, those tunes are just too de-mystifying to serve McLachlan well.

This collection is not only a testament to McLachlan's work with other songwriters but also a chronicle of her ability to surround herself with other great performers. Live cuts featuring Emmylou Harris, Cyndi Lauper and the Perishers appear. While the live mixes do not always flatter the collaborating vocalists, in the way a studio session would, these recordings display both McLachlan's taste and ability to draw other artists into her creative world.

Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff Volume 2 is not the record to win over legions of new McLachlan fans. Nor was it intended to. This is an album for the serious McLachlan fan who wants a hard copy of that tune they've heard floating around the Internet or saw in a rare, wonderful live setting. The project does just enough to add to McLachlan's allure without detracting from the legacy she continues to construct.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less

Following his excellent debut record Communion, Rabit further explores the most devastating aspects of its sound in his sophomore opus Les Fleurs du Mal.

Back in 2015 Rabit was unleashing Communion in the experimental electronic scene. Combining extreme avant-garde motifs with an industrial perspective on top of the grime sharpness, Eric C. Burton released one of the most interesting records of that year. Blurring lines between genres, displaying an aptitude for taking things to the edge and the fact that Burton was not afraid to embrace the chaos of his music made Communion such an enticing listen, and in turn set Rabit to be a "not to be missed" artist.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.