Heather Nova's music was virtually omnipresent in 1999. During that time, "London Rain" and "Heart & Shoulder," from her 1998 album, Siren, were featured prominently in movie trailers, television shows and soundtracks, but mainstream success continued to elude the songwriter through the new millennium. More hopeful (and easily more accessible) than her major label debut, Siren blends classic melodies with strikingly honest lyrics (Nova even comments on her burgeoning small_time fame on the opening track: "There've been changes beyond my dreams/Everybody wants me to sing"). Artists like Nova elevate pop music to a new plateau, and with tracks like "Not Only Human," it's clear she lives and breathes her art: "Life is something set to music/I can hear it when I'm sad." The album was bottomless with potential radio hits like the soaring "Winterblue" and the delicately bittersweet "What A Feeling" ("Now's the time when this will turn to fruit...The laughter that was dead is coming"). But with no commercial singles released, individual songs were never given the opportunity to create an impact. It makes one wonder how the slow demise of the single format will affect other developing artists like Nova.
© slant magazine, 2002.
Feature: The Lost Pop of the 90s