Sophie B. Hawkins

The story goes that Hawkins, unhappy with her record label after releasing Timbre, went indie to make art on her own terms. Usually artistic freedom isn't associated with flashy commercial pop albums but, in this case, Wilderness is just that. In fact it is probably her most accessible and mainstream sounding release to date, partly due to Hawkins' penchant for clean production and radio ready melodies, but also because she enlisted sibling producers Christian and Frank Berman to helm the production. The problem is that in the midst of overblown production, Hawkins' songwriter sensibilities and sensitivities often get lost. Instead we get the work of a production team — add synth strings here/go for John Bonham drum sound there/cut to world music bridge but quickly shift to last rousing chorus before you loose the A.D.D. crowd. This is to be expected though, after all, the Berman Brothers are partly responsible for bringing us that singer-songwriter watershed, "Who Let the Dogs Out?" What does save this album from being entirely overwrought, though, is that at heart Hawkins is a very daring and experimental soul. Her use of varied percussion, though often buried beneath drum programming, is all her own, and her need to make each song different from the last helps make Wilderness more than just a vehicle to push a single. Perhaps now that she's come through the ringer, she can get out of the wilderness for the next album and focus on a record that highlights her songs instead of suffocating them.