Beauty Queen Sister: A Review

11 Oct

As you know I love my Indigo Girls.  And their songs are never so superficial or poppy that I am humming them after a first listen.  Well, I was moved by the Become You CD after my very first listen, but maybe that had more to do with that period of my life.  Their material is meant to be analyzed, and the songs always grow on me as I hear them more and more.  I begin to notice the lyrics, harmonies, instrumentation, only after I’ve heard the songs a few times.  So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I came away from first listen to Beauty Queen Sister with no instant favorites.

And maybe I’ll appreciate Beauty Queen Sister as I listen more.  But so far, there is just one stand out track.  I really like “Yoke” with its violin and haunting, gritty vocals by Amy.  There are few songs on the rest of this album that speak to me.  I’m sad to say so little on this album is resonating with me yet.

remember the intensity?

I hope Amy and Emily aren’t getting old, losing their edge, and settling into middle age.  Security and happiness are good, but not at the expense of some real heartache songs, angry calls to political action, and rocking harmonies with meaningful lyrics that go somewhere.  I hate to even make disparaging remarks about IG–I love them–they are my favorite.

Usually, I gravitate toward Emily’s writing and technical skill, but I felt she was the weaker link of the duo this time around.  The closest song to her more recognizable work that I love is “We Get to Feel It All.”  The background music really makes the song stand out, but at least some of Emily’s sentimental lyrics are in it–however repetitious.  But the rest?  I’m not certain about.  She chose weird things to write about for Beauty Queen Sister.  I think “Able to Sing” does not have the best title or chorus.  It should be something. . .  More.  This is a song about marriage, upon closer listen, so it should have potential–it is just never realized.  Maybe the live performance version of this one will have some teeth.  But what is this “Feed the Horses” business?  Where does that even come from?  I also thought “Birthday Song” is a little random, and sounds like it belongs on the Christmas CD of last year.  I thought Emily’s writing wasn’t up to par, and didn’t make me FEEL like it usually does.

The songs Amy did were, well, redundant (with the exception of “Yoke”).  The track “Beauty Queen Sister” is catchy, but I can’t shake the feeling I’ve heard it before. . .  Maybe on one of Amy’s solo albums.  I thought a few of the songs on this album sort of sounded similar to other songs in the wider catalog.  “Making Promises,”  Same story.  I like these songs, just as I liked them the first time I heard an incarnation of them in prior work.  This makes me worry the Indigo Girls ran out of original ideas.  And I felt “War Rugs” was a feeble attempt at their characteristic political fire.  It missed the mark, and didn’t have the regular passion.  “Damo.”  Finally the Amy/Emily combination of voices that fans love most!  And some interesting backing.  But, again, I felt the political message fell flat.

Maybe, after a few listens the songs will grow on me and I’ll realize some subtleties that I have missed.  That’s what happened with “All That We Let In.”  I am certainly going to stick with it, the Indigo Girls are my very favorite after all.  I hope I hear what Amy and Emily have intended. . .

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