During the mid-'90s, Sarah McLachlan was a near-ubiquitous presence in pop music, establishing adult alternative pop radio with 1994's Fumbling Toward Ecstasy and 1997's Surfacing and spearheading the popular Lilith Fair touring festival, but once the last Lilith wound up in 1999, she retreated from the spotlight, had a baby, and seemingly retired from music. Four years later, she made a typically subdued return with Afterglow, her first album in six years. Not much has changed in the time she was away. Afterglow is firmly within the McLachlan signature sound -- a softly tuneful, mildly atmospheric blend of classic singer/songwriterism and a touch of vaguely dreamy alternative pop, all shined and immaculately produced by Pierre Marchand. Prior to its release, the album was touted as the first collection of songs she wrote entirely on piano, not guitar, but ultimately this doesn't make much of a difference to the overall feel and effect of the album, which perfectly dovetails with Surfacing. At times, the pacing is so languid and the production so open-ended, the album kind of drifts away, but it's not only in a pleasant fashion; it's also no different than its immediate predecessor, which also could meander. In other words, after a prolonged absence, Sarah McLachlan re-emerges with a record that could have followed Surfacing by six months, not years. Some may call that predictable, some may call it reliable, but there's little arguing that Afterglow is a solid effort -- it won't win new fans, but it will certainly satisfy the old ones.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine