Having found a successful niche in making music for kids, Lisa Loeb seems hard-pressed to find the time to write and record music for her fellow grown-ups. 2020's A Simple Trick to Happiness is the first album she's released since 2013's No Fairy Tale that's dominated by original tunes not written with kids in mind, and in some small ways she sounds just a bit out of practice. A few of the tunes on A Simple Trick to Happiness, while clearly intended for an audience that no longer has a bedtime imposed by others, offer up advice or object lessons in a concise format (such as "Another Day," "Sing Out," or "Shine"), as if she's gotten education and positivity into her system and isn't sure how to get them out. The paradox is that A Simple Trick to Happiness embraces an emotional maturity and wisdom that's uplifting without sounding trite or disingenuous. Loeb sounds like someone who is still figuring out life's mysteries in these songs, but she's learned just enough to know the answers are often simple ones, and if they hardly seem profound at first glance, that's part of the point. In Loeb's world, life is often a matter of seeing the things that are hiding in plain sight, and getting a bead on them isn't always simple, like the woman who can't figure out why her relationship isn't making her happy in "Doesn't It Feel Good" or another who struggles with change and purpose in "For the Birch." Loeb's songs reveal a concision and clarity that show just how much she's grown as a writer since "Stay" made her an overnight star in 1994. She's also an effective vocalist on these sessions, making the emotions clear and deeply felt without anything approaching histrionics and with a pleasing instrument that is maturing gracefully. And producer and frequent co-composer Rich Jacques has a superb touch, giving these arrangements just the heft they need and not a bit more. Running a modest 35 minutes, A Simple Trick to Happiness doesn't go out if its way to sound like a grand statement, but meet it on its own terms and you'll discover this is one of the best and most satisfying albums Lisa Loeb has made to date.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming