Bic Runga has released some brilliant, startling songs: “Drive” from her debut of the same name, “Precious Things” and “Election Night” from Beautiful Collapse and (yes, it’s a different song) “Drive,” the opener of Strawpeople’s No New Messages (one of the best albums ever committed to tape). The problem is that much of the rest of her material is far less engaging — even dull, if you’re not in a Bic mindset.
Beautiful Collapse suffers for this. There aren’t enough sharp inhalations or departures to sculpt an immediately vivid album structure. Drive succeeded by skillfully mixing things up enough to showcase Runga’s talents (and she has an abundance of them — she can sing, she can write, she can play), but Beautiful Collapse gets stuck once or twice and never seems to take off. The areas where she dabbles in simplistic, childhood composition (“When I See You Smile” and “The Be All and End All”) jar against those places where the arrangements showcase a maturity only hinted at on her first release. In fact, the kid-esque interludes are about as far as she strays from her norm on this album. Unfortunately, they don’t quite succeed in adding arresting color to proceedings.
Beautiful Collapse does grow on you, however. It’s an album that becomes comfortable and comforting in turn. It’s a damn good singer-songwriter record, but it doesn’t propel Runga into orbit (although I have a feeling that she could get there one day. Here’s to hoping).