Paula Cole eased back into regular rotation with 2007’s Courage, adopting some of Norah Jones’ supper club sophistication. She doesn’t pick up on this thread on its 2010 sequel, Ithaca, she goes back to her beginnings, hiring her initial producer Kevin Killen for a set of songs firmly within her AAA wheelhouse. Apart from a few flourishes, such as the brick-walled distorted guitars on the chorus of “Music in Me,” this is so sonically similar to Harbinger and This Fire that it could have been released 15 years earlier, if it weren’t for the fact that Ithaca is a song cycle about Cole’s recent divorce, charting the dissolution of her marriage and its aftermath. Cole clearly has a lot to say and she funnels it all into these ten songs, sometimes making the songs so wordy her melodies become distended, but complaining that Ithaca isn’t hooky is beside the point -- this is contemplative mood music, the chords and melody acting as a bed for Cole’s emotions. In light of all the personal turmoil, the return to her ‘90s sound makes sense: by being at a point of comfort, Cole can work out her troubles and those familiar sounds also ease listeners into the songwriter’s pain and ultimate rebirth.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine