April 11, 2002

Lily White

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In 1998, Australian pop phenomenon Natalie Imbruglia took the world by storm with her smash hit single “Torn” and her wildly popular, much sought-after pixie hairstyle. However, after an amazing year of success, she seemed to be doomed to a fate of forgotten one-hit wonder status after dropping out of sight with no new releases or public appearances during a four year creative drought. But now the dry spell has ended, and Imbruglia has triumphantly emerged from hiding with her long-awaited 2002 sophomore release White Lilies Island, a remarkable achievement filled with more of her trademark lush melodies and pensive single girl-dom lyrics that are sure to satisfy her biggest fans.

Imbruglia utilizes her characteristic style of electronic sounds prevalent on Left of the Middle in White Lilies Island to create a whimsical, musical landscape quite appropriate to the mood conveyed by her daydreamy musings. Tracks like the radio-favorite “Wrong Impression” and “That Day” serve as outstanding examples of Imbruglia’s successful experimentation with dramatic electronically enhanced instrumental accompaniment. Soaring guitar solos and sweeping orchestrals avoid ostentation with the nicely offsetting complement of her simple and sweetly melodic voice and provide a relaxing, rapturous escape into melodious harmony.

The album avoids overpiling the gorgeous instrumental dramatization and offers some pleasant songs stripped of ornamentation. “Satellite” is an example of this more minimalist style, in which the folksy sound of a strumming acoustic guitar combined with very catchy, playful sing-songy lyrics produces a mellow, carefree effect. Imbruglia does this less successfully in the darker “Talk in Tongues.” This time the guitar’s used for a gloomier, blues-y twang, but the simplicity of acoustics doesn’t quite exude the aura of frustration that the moody lyrics probably intended. Imbruglia would have been better off resorting to the potentially somber and unearthly quality of electronic sounds for this track.

A minimally negative aspect of White Lilies Island is that a certain style and sound predominate, something that might disappoint the more distractable, more diversity-oriented listener. But all the songs are consistently well-crafted, and although the styles are similar, there’s still something distinctive, whether it be a kick of resounding echoing electronic beats or a magnificent intro of trumpets, that gives each some distinguishable character. And obviously, with a title that refers to fields of flowing flowers, the album is going to favor a more female audience and perhaps alienate the male sector. However, there’s no doubt that White Lilies Island is a wonderful pop album that combines both beautiful melodies and poetically wistful songwriting. Anyone, regardless of gender, who has an appreciation for these qualities, as well as being able to relate to the universal feelings of love and loss, will undoubtedly have an enjoyable listening experience. That said, White Lilies Island is an inspiring field of stirring musical dreams.

Archived article by Sherry Jun