CD Review of Shine by Sarah Bettens
Recommended if you like
Garrison Starr, K’s Choice, KT Tunstall
Sarah Bettens: Shine

Reviewed by Mike Farley


arah Bettens, former lead singer of Belgian alt-rock group K’s Choice, is back with her more toned-down sophomore solo effort, Shine, the follow-up to 2006’s critically acclaimed Scream. Bettens has lost much of the dark edge she displayed as the front person for K’s Choice, and instead has delivered a beautifully crafted, made-for-AAA-radio album with Shine. It’s clearly less K’s and more of the breezy, guitar-driven alt-pop of the artists mentioned above, in particular Garrison Starr. Bettens seems to be able to write this type of catchy fare in her sleep, with her sultry and smoky vocals tempered nicely by the slick production of Brad Wood (Sunny Day Real Estate, Smashing Pumpkins, Ben Lee).

The first track, “Can’t Get Out,” is neatly crafted; the introspective, somber verses lead to a wide-open, harmony drenched chorus, setting the tone for what’s to come. The title track showcases equal parts bluesy songstress and blissful pop, making the first two cuts a very radio-friendly one-two punch. K’s Choice fans looking for a return of the “Not an Addict” days might dig on “Daddy’s Gun,” though Bettens still manages to take a dark subject and weave some pop into it. As bright and airy as some of these songs are, Bettens is at her best when she tones things down just a little, and that’s mostly clear on “Rescue Me” and the beautiful, slightly twangy “Just Another Day” and “The Soldier Song.”

Bettens is an artist whose name you may not recognize by itself, but her voice is one that you will know you’ve heard before, even if the style of music is toned down and exhaling more mainstream air. Adding to that aura is the fact that Bettens has licensed songs to Showtime’s Californication and CW’s Out of Site, and is being commissioned to write a theme song for Pepsi, after prior work with Nike and Levi’s. It’s a symbol for today’s music business model, which is less about major labels and more about independent artists finding new ways to be heard. That all doesn’t mean Bettens is a sellout – it means she’s a damn good artist and songwriter, and that for once some big wigs found that out and did something about it.

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