Missy Higgins – The Sound Of White

The Sound Of White was the first Missy Higgins album to ever grace my ears. It also happened to be her debut album. Despite the title, the sounds that it produced upon my first listen were not screechy and painful; they were something of beauty.

As you listen you discover the perfect balance of heartfelt slow songs with a few upbeat numbers to mix it up. All For Believing was the first mainstream song Missy ever wrote. She wrote it when she was younger than me which makes my achievements in life seem somewhat pathetic. It’s a slow piano track, with heavy lyrics full of metaphor.

I have two versions of Don’t Ever. Whilst I enjoy the album version, it’s the live version which I find particularly impressive. The lyrics are so homely and are sung with such passion that you become enveloped in the song. She describes this perfect neighbourhood in the verses that I think we all can aspire to live in. A neighbourhood where “The butcher Mr Tims will give us discounts when he can”. A neighbourhood where you make friends with the milkman. A neighbourhood that reminds me of a less traumatic Erinsborough!

Scar is one of the few happy songs on the album. Happy probably isn’t really the right word to describe it. It’s got a quick tempo and if you were to gloss over the lyrics you’d probably think it was a ‘happy’ track. But upon a closer listen, you can hear that the lyrics are about not fitting in. Using the clever metaphor of “a triangle trying to squeeze through a circle”, it’s been widely assumed that the song is about Missy’s bisexuality although that is not what Missy wants the focus to be on. It’s a catchy song that did well in the Australian Charts because of it’s great melody.

There’s something about Ten Days that I adore. It’s perfectly paced and the lyrics are typical of Missy’s earlier style without being too depressing. A stereotypical love song it is not, but it’s a Missy love song. And that’s why I love it.

I haven’t listened to Nightminds in a while, which is a shame because I’ve just rediscovered how beautiful it is. Missy’s music is not for you if you want happy-go-lucky pop. It’s cleverly crafted to evoke emotions. Each lyric has clearly been thought through to portray deep emotions and as such can often be misinterpreted as depressing. I have never found Missy’s music to be depressing. Sure, the lyrics can be deep, heavy and sad, but they tell a story. She never writes to depress, she writes with a narrative to pull at your heartstrings so that you empathise with the story that’s being told.

Casualty has a sound that could almost be described as ‘jazzy’. Not jazzy as in ‘Jazz Hands’ or ‘All that Jazz’, but the type of Jazz that I’d imagine to be played in a small smoky jazz club on the outskirts of a large city. Having never been to a jazz club, I cannot state that this is a fact; it’s just how I like to interpret the genre. Anyway, it’s a different song to the rest of the album that matches the powerful notes with some strong vocals.

I love Unbroken. It’s not on all versions of the album. It wasn’t on my CD version so I had to download it when it finally appeared on UK iTunes. The lyrics sing of pregnancy and divorce in the most amazing metaphors; “Two line blue line tragedy” seems to sum up an unwanted pregnancy pretty vividly.

Careful piano playing and slowly sung lyrics are combined to create Any Day Now. Posing rhetorical questions (“What if what we see is all we’ve got?”), Missy knows how to make her listeners think. The verses tell a story very well with the chorus referring back to the questions that would be floating around the character in the song’s mind.

Now for the two songs on the album that I’ll admit could be described as ‘dark’. Katie and The River both appear to sing of young girls who live tough lives. In the latter it sounds as though the character has lived a tough life and took it upon herself to end it. “Somebody’s bed will never be warm again. The river will keep this friend” – It’s not music suited to radio, but both songs are incredibly dramatic and thought provoking. As opposed to literal lyrics, Missy uses metaphors (you may have realised how much I love metaphorical use of language) to describe these situations.

The opening lines in The Special Two set the tone for the rest of the song. It’s apparently a song about Missy and her sister who’d had an argument which has been embellished for the sake of the lyrics. I absolutely adore a question that is posed and answered in a verse of this song. “Is it better to tell and hurt? Or lie to save their face? I guess the answer is don’t do it in the first place.” So true. And yet it rhymes so that it fits beautifully into the song’s rhythm. How on earth Missy manages to make so much sense whilst working of the crafting of a song astounds me. She is one talented girl.

This Is How It Goes has a really lovely beat. It’s faster pace than the majority songs on the album and shines particularly strongly in the chorus. Combining the first and second person, Missy allows the listener to interpret the relationship being sung about in their own way, perhaps even comparing it to their own relationships. Oh, and I have to mention the la-di-da-da’s. They’re rather cool.

The title track was written after the death of Missy’s cousin. The Sound Of White tells of the void left after he passed and how Missy was, one day, sat in a chapel where she is “sure I felt your fingers through my hair”. The song is full of memories that must’ve made the song difficult to write but come across perfectly.

Ending with They Weren’t There, the album doesn’t disappoint at any point. Another piano based song, Missy’s vocal shines throughout. She never feels the need to use any fancy editing tricks to hide her voice. Her voice is so strong that it can be accompanied by the simplest instrument playing to create something truly powerful.

I love this album. Had it never been in the car that we borrowed to drive around Sydney in 2005 I may never have discovered Missy Higgins. And that would’ve been a bit of a tragedy.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] Sound Of White was the first Missy Higgins album to ever grace my ears. It also happened to be h australia « WordPress.com Tag Feed GD Star Ratingloading…GD Star […]


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