On June 15, 2010, the Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter Sarah McLachlan released of Laws of Illusion. This was Sarah's first studio album of new material in seven years, since the double–platinum Afterglow in 2003, and its twelve songs rank with the most compelling work ever cre¬ated by this gifted artist.
In the years between these two releases, Sarah has married, separated, and is raising two young daughters. These crucial life experiences have en¬riched her artistry and infused her new songs with the full range and complexity of adult emotions. In listening to Laws of Illusion, we can hear the strength of hard–earned independence; the trials of love won, lost, and found anew; and the infinite joys of living.
Because Sarah's voice is so intimately familiar to so many of us, the experience of Laws of Illusion is a singular and special one. It's like meeting an old friend again after long separation – and discovering that the passage of time and the accumulation of experience have only deepened rather than diminished that friendship.
For Sarah herself, this period was a time of profound change and renewed discovery. "I think when you go into a dark place for a while and you come out of it, the lightness you feel is…euphoric," she told an Advocate.com interviewer in May 2010.
"My marriage collapsed a couple of years ago, and it was a long, dark road…Finally coming through that knowing that life is going to be okay, life will go on, and that there's actually a possibility of love happening again is…just deliriously heady stuff."
In Laws of Illusion, Sarah looks at love "from both sides now." The opening track, "Awakenings," moves on a subdued electronic pulse underpinning ethereal guitar lines and – as the singer soars into her upper register – demonstrates her ability to craft an unforgettable "hook" without hitting the listener over the head with it.
"Loving You Is Easy," the first single from the album, is an upbeat, almost jaunty piano–based song, with a musical atmosphere perfectly matched to lyrics that describe the heady thrill of new love: "I'm alive and I'm on fire/Shot like a starburst into the sky…"
For many listeners, "Forgiveness" will be the centerpiece of Laws of Illusion. There is a wonderful subtlety in the arrangement, which builds inexorably from unaccompanied vocal–and–piano showcase to the layers of near–ambient guitar parts and finally a powerful coda completed by bass and drums. "Forgiveness," says Sarah, "is about the loss of a relationship and drawing a line in the sand, saying: This is not good for me and I can't do it anymore."
Through the years, we had it all
The midnight whispers, the midday calls
This house of cards, it had to fall
You ask for forgiveness but you're asking too much
'Cos I've sheltered my heart in a place you can't touch...
Laws of Illusion is produced by Sarah's long-time creative collaborator Pierre Marchand, and together they co–wrote a number of the compositions. The sole outside number, "Bring On The Wonder," was written by English singer/songwriter Susan Enan. (In 2008, Sarah was featured on Susan's recording of this song for the television soundtrack Bones.)
"Pierre and I have worked together for over twenty years," says Sarah with a trace of awe. "I co-wrote a lot with him on this record, more so than in the past."
"It's an intimate thing to write [songs] with somebody, to reveal oneself like that. But I feel in¬credibly comfortable with him – there are no judgments. Pierre really contributed a lot to the lyrics of some of these songs. He could come up with just the right choice of words – simple but meaningful – to fit the story we were trying to tell."
Sarah and Pierre worked quickly and efficiently at their respective home studios in Vancouver and Montreal, cutting all the basic tracks for six songs in just five days. "We were able to record 'live on the floor,' with myself and the musicians all right there in the room," Sarah explains. "It was quick and exciting, and really a first for me to work that way."
In addition to some familiar names from past McLachlan sessions, the supporting cast for Laws of Illusion includes the much–traveled drummer Matt Chamberlain, who's played with everyone from Pearl Jam to John Mayer; and guitarist Colin Cripps, best known for his work with Canadian singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Laws of Illusion will be available both as a standard 12–track compact disc and in a deluxe version including a five–song bonus DVD of live in-studio performances