If Missy Higgins isn’t a household name in the U.S. already, her newest album The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle should do the trick. The 28 year-old singer songwriter who hails from Melbourne, Australia has been making a name for herself stateside with hits like the heartbreaking ballad “Where I Stood,” and deeper cuts like “Warm Whispers” and “Secret,” but in my opinion, never got the full recognition that she deserved here. Hopefully Razzle Dazzle will change all that, and new fans will be able to enjoy her incredible vocals, intimate songwriting, and the way she bares her soul on every track.
After only two albums, 2004’s Sound of White and 2007’s On A Clear Night, Higgins took a hiatus from the music world and spotlight to go back to college, and refocus on other life pursuits. Fortunately for all of us, she couldn’t stay away too long, and a five year break gave her plenty of new material and life experience to pull from, making The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle an excellent return to form, and dropping a heightened maturity as well. Her new album sees her making a more collaborative effort on songwriting with artists like Katie Herzig, and fellow Aussie, Butterfly Boucher.
Her heart-on-her-sleeve style presents itself in much bigger arrangements and with a much crisper sound this time around. Never is it more evident than on “Unashamed Desire” where Missy sings “Open up my chest and take what you like/ Open up my chest if you like/ I’ve got nothing to hide.” Her doubts and sensitivities are on full display on “All In My Head,” and then on “Tricks” she lays her soul completely bare as she is “done with smoke screens and fancy veils. I’m done with all this pretty decorating of myself.”
From the onset of the first tune, you can tell the time off has been good for Missy. Her lyrical prowess seems to have grown, and her musicianship as well. “Set Me On Fire” demands to be listened to, and it’s a huge contrast from normally starting her CD’s off with a piano-driven ballad. For those who worry that maybe she has gone too far in the other direction though, have no fear. The second half of the album is filled with some of her most gorgeous work to date, including the smoky jazz of “Cooling of the Embers” and the effortlessly simple closer “Arms of a Tune.”
Creativity-wise, the collaborations with Boucher and Herzig seemed to stretch her musically, and especially in trying new things. “Everyone’s Waiting” starts with beautiful harmonies and sings about not wanting to hide who she is at all. Mandolin and acoustic guitars steers along the love song “If I’m Honest,” creating a pretty melody and a new direction for Higgins.
Artistically, “Temporary Love” is perhaps the most different from her past tunes, but hearing her sing alongside an upbeat urgent track makes me realize that she can go try almost any genre and do it extremely well. “The Hidden Ones” contains some of my favorite lyrics on the album, as she questions and challenges the listener to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. “I still have no idea what to believe. But there is a choice, follow the leader or use your voice. Cos this’ll just keep up until we make a loud noise and the hidden ones speak up.” Excellent new disc from Ms. Higgins, and I hope we don’t have to wait another five years to hear more from her!
Try This Track: “If I’m Honest”