Wilderness is Sophie B Hawkins’s first release on her own label after parting ways with Sony five years ago. Because this is an independent release, the production is on the rough side. Perhaps as someone who prides herself on being true to herself, Ms Hawkins will rather have any rough edges on her vocals be laid bare to the listeners instead of masking them with modern studio technology. The result is akin to listening to an intimate singalong session with a favorite artist, if you’re a fan, or listening to a self-indulgent barfly warbling in a painful falsetto in a karaoke bar. I’m a fan, probably too much for my own good, so I lean towards the latter. I don’t about anyone else, though!
Featuring many various different tracks incorporating saxophones reminiscent of summertime soundtrack in a sunny seaside resort or banjos, ranging in moods from melancholy to outright happiness. One thing that is very clear on this CD is that Ms Hawkins’s music is noticeably upbeat and happy, as if she presents herself on this CD with no more chains tying her with whatever baggage she has with Sony. She sings about losing her virginity in a tender but playful uptempo tune Adrian, waxes lyrical about her love affair with another woman in Sweetsexywoman, and runs amok, laughing and giggling, as she teases the object of her infatuation in Surfer Girl with silly lines like “I’d rather lie with you on the beach than suffer admirers at my life” that actually work very well in the mischievous context of the song.
Ms Hawkins’s singing is on the rough side, with her using her falsetto more often than I ever remembered her doing so, and the result is either one listeners will love or loathe. I can’t help but love it because if there is one thing that is clear to me on this track, it is how Ms Hawkins’s passion and giddy enthusiasm for this CD just shine through, accentuated by all those charming little flaws in the tracks on this CD, kinda like a CD of songs recorded by someone silly that you adore. I can’t help liking this CD because this is Ms Hawkins having fun like I’ve never seen her before. There is no omnisexual Earth Mother pretensions that marred Timbre here.
In a way, I miss the Freudian overtones and naughty sexuality of Ms Hawkins’s first two CDs, but that’s okay, people move on and Ms Hawkins is calmer and more mellow now. With infectious and irresistible musical confections like the fabulous Adrian, the perfect “I’m a naughty kinky lady bent on seducing you” anthem of Meet Me at the Rooftop, the tentative hero-worship of the bohemian in Blue, and the sensual spacey Soul Lover, this is the most musically rich and diverse that I’ve heard from Ms Hawkins in a long time. She sounds inspired, liberated, and so at ease in teasing, seducing, and having fun that she’s like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon here, if I can be excused for using a trite comparison here. So much so that its imperfections can be excused as being signs of exuberance, surely.
And as a plus, as opposed to many artists who turn tuneless and pretentious when they decide to go against the establishment, Ms Hawkins’s Wilderness is packed with fabulous songs that stick to the head and won’t let go.