Blue on Blue
Bleeding Heart Graffiti
No one listened to Sixpence None the Richer for drama—not even the Christian-rock kids scandalized by the squeaky-clean Nashville group's ascent to secular renown on the wings of "Kiss Me," their immortal slice of Freddie Prinze Jr.-approved sunshine pop. Sixpence offered innocence in musical form; in their hit cover of "There She Goes" by the La's, a romance with heroin cools into oblivious admiration. Yet according to her Myspace page, drama is precisely what fueled the creation of Sixpence singer Leigh Nash's solo debut, Blue on Blue: She wrote these 11 songs, she explains, after breaking up her band, moving to Los Angeles, and giving birth to her son Henry.
With that kind of backstory, you might expect Blue on Blue to sound like some kind of hellish combination of the Sundays and PJ Harvey. Well, it doesn't: When life gives Nash drama, Nash makes tunes like "Nervous in the Light of Dawn," a pretty folk-pop strummer where "lightning in the east" leads her to "wish for guidance and... for peace." Her prayers must've been answered, for Blue exudes a homey, lived-in calm. Producer Pierre Marchand (a veteran of records by Sarah McLachlan and Rufus Wainwright) sweetens Nash's writing with lots of nifty studio detail, like the goofy reggae bounce in "My Idea of Heaven." "I never thought I'd get here/I was so far away," she sings, presumably alluding to her recent emotional upheaval. Lucky for Nash, the claim is hard to believe.
Ex-Veruca Salt singer Nina Gordon similarly bows her head right at the top of Bleeding Heart Graffiti, the belated follow-up to her 2000 solo debut. "This is a prayer to anyone who's up there," she sings over keyboard-coated acoustic guitars. "I've never talked to you, but I don't know what else to do." One option: Make the most boring Aimee Mann album ever. Gordon's sweetly smoky vocals are appealing enough, but throughout Graffiti producer Bob Rock, used to prohibiting subtlety with late-era Metallica, drowns her singing in layer after layer of sparkly Starbucks-pop schmaltz. Gordon's melodies occasionally communicate a winsome thirtysomething ache, but the music never sounds like anything's at stake—not even in "Kiss Me 'Til It Bleeds."