When Sixpence None The Richer teamed with Charlie Peacock for his 2004 release, Full Circle, it was a pretty firm belief that this was the last we would hear from the collaborative efforts of Matt Slocum and Leigh (Bingham) Nash. While the duo went their separate ways - Slocum to work with Astronaut Pushers and Nash to launch a solo pop career - they would later learn that what they had together, musically, was something special that they couldn't replicate on their own apart from each other. With that realized late last year, Slocum and Nash decided 2008 would bring about the return of Sixpence None The Richer.
A lot has transpired in the lives of Slocum and Nash since Sixpence originally disbanded, including a broken relationship for Nash which has become a topic for her recent songwriting, especially on last year's collaboration with Delerium, entitled Fauxliage. The songs on Sixpence's first release this year, a four-song EP entitled My Dear Machine, seem to be heavily inspired by Nash's heartbreak as well, with lyrics that are brutally honest and painfully real throughout. Nash's sweet and soft vocals display more of this heartache this time around, as the listener can really feel what Leigh is going through. But the brutal honesty, coupled with the freedom that no ties to a record label for this release bring, lets the use of mild profanity creep in as Nash expresses her spiritual frustrations in "Amazing Grace (Give It Back)," "I knew a song that played in me / It seems I've lost the melody / So please, Lord, give it back to me.... You're everywhere in every time / And yet You're so d*mn hard to find." While most going through the Christian walk can empathize with a statement like that - being able to relate to the times in life where God seems absent - it's unfortunate to hear that on a Sixpence None The Richer release.
Lyrical themes aside, musically My Dear Machine feels very much like a Nash and Slocum composition. While a song like "Amazing Grace (Give It Back)" has a bit of the haunting darkness that was felt on Nash's Fauxliage project, the songs "My Dear Machine," "Sooner Than Later," and "Around" fit right in with the later Sixpence None The Richer art-pop approach. Some of the songs combine the pop flair of Divine Discontent with the more indie feel of the self-titled release, but there's a distinctly more bitter feeling than sad or melancholy that washes over the songs. With the band not having to worry about a major label release to tickle the ears of radio listeners and sell enough records to keep a mainstream deal (heck, you can get these songs for free through Noise Trade), the production on My Dear Machine is clean but not over produced or over polished. It has the quality of a major label release without feeling as if the musical integrity has been compromised to move units. This EP allows Sixpence the freedom to do what they want.
In the end, My Dear Machine is a strong return to form for Matt Slocum and Leigh Nash. While fans of the "Kiss Me" Sixpence aren't going to find anything here to pique their interests (it's more anti-romantic than romantic), fans of the meloncholy indie pop that Sixpence None The Richer has churned out since day one will find a lot to like here. And with a full-length Christmas record hitting shelves in a couple months as well as the promise of more music in the not so distant future, we can be sure that this won't be the last we'll hear of Sixpence None The Richer.
- Review written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com