Artist: Sixpence None The Richer
Title: This Beautiful Mess
Genre: Christian alt-rock
Yes, that Sixpence None The Richer, but at the same time, no, not that Sixpence None The Richer. Before they were the treacly pop band who sang Kiss Me and covered Crowded House and The La's, they were an alt-rock band with a different line-up on an independent label that specialized mostly in Christian heavy metal. All of this to say, don't just this record by Kiss Me.
A lot of the music I listened to during my formative years was from Christian bands, and for various reasons many of those albums that I once loved dearly are now difficult for me to listen to. This Beautiful Mess is an exception. That's because for this record, religion isn't a message so much as a perspective from which to explore themes of love, death, mistakes, sex, doubt, addiction, anxiety... you know, grown-up stuff. But it's never about judging, just about experiencing the mess of life and finding the beauty in the dissonance.
The music is guitar-forward--the obvious influences are the Cure and U2--but the real secret weapon here is Leigh Nash's amazing voice. It's beautifully textured and she sings with yearning and passion. The opener Angeltread is the hardest-rocking and possibly also the least interesting. The real gems are Love, Salvation, The Fear Of Death (embedded above), Within A Room Somewhere, and Circle Of Error, but there's not a bad track on it.
Further Listening: After this album, two of the members quit, and Sixpence transformed into the Kiss Me band, which also started them on the road to mainstream success. Their previous album, also their debut, Fatherless And The Widow, is almost un-listenable. They have an EP called Tickets For A Prayer Wheel that includes an extended demo of Within A Room Somewhere, and while the EP is only okay, the indulgent guitar solo outro on that demo is pretty remarkable.