Album of the Week: Sixpence None the Richer’s Divine Discontent (2002)

Have you ever seen She’s All That with Freddie Prinze Jr. (of Scooby-Doo fame), Rachel Leigh Cook and Matthew Lillard (also of Scooby-Doo fame)? It’s basically an above-average teen movie, but the best scene is undoubtedly when Rachel Leigh Cook’s character walks down her staircase as Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” is playing. “Kiss Me” (1997) is peak grocery store-core. Happy, catchy, mellow and saccharine, it’s a smash hit that remains Sixpence’s most popular song.

After their (now certified Platinum) self-titled album came out in 1997, it took almost 5 years for the band (with ties to Texas and Nashville) to release a follow-up. Lead singer Leigh Nash, an unabashed Christian, stated in a 2003 interview with Jesus Freak Hideout that label problems delayed the release of Divine Discontent, and that it wasn’t supposed to feature the Crowded House cover “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, which Sixpence recorded for the TV show Smallville.

Though the inclusion of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” may have been a push to sell the album rather than an artistic decision, it’s still a standout here. They stick fairly close to the original version, which is not a bad idea. I became obsessed with the Crowded House version recently, which led me to finding Divine Discontent in the first place. With this song, two versions are better than one.

The rest of the album is cash money too, though. “Breathe Your Name” sets things off with as much sunshine as Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”, but it’s a little groovier. “Waiting on the Sun” is another pop banger. “Paralyzed” is the rocker that I imagine them ripping in a live setting. “Tension is a Passing Note” is a broken ballad that Nash has called her favorite Sixpence song. “Do I murder us / putting pavement in my veins?” she asks. It’s an unsettling moment, and it works in the band’s favor. The Van Dyke Parks-assisted “Dizzy” is like a primer for the soaring closer “A Million Parachutes”, another stand-out.

As far as being lumped into the Christian rock category, as Sixpence often is, Nash has said “I am a big fat Christian and do not care who knows that. When it comes to our music we’d just like it to be taken for it’s musical value and not lobbed onto a big bandwagon.” Divine Discontent far exceeds any expectations of generic Christian rock, and it has aged well in the same way that Michelle Branch’s early 2000’s hits have aged well. They’re well-written rock songs produced to pop perfection.

Listen to Divine Discontent here.

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