Returning to the world of music after a three year absence, the Indigo Girls have made up for lost time with a two-disc set entitled Poseidon and the Bitter Bug. Bug teams Emily Saliers and Amy Ray up with the same team which made 2006’s Despite Our Differences the critics’ darling it was. Produced by Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, and Los Lobos), the Indigo Girls’ eleventh major label release is full of seamless harmonies and expressive musical backing.
While the album is a two-disc set, it should be noted that the same songs appear on both discs – one being electric, the other acoustic. The electric teamwork of drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Clare Kenny add to the soulful groove of “Ghost of the Gang” and the forward banjo arrangement of “Second Time Around.” While purists may want to go for the acoustic album, there really isn’t any different insight into that batch of songs. The full band recorded the 10 album tracks in just three weeks, and therefore, there is an excitement and energy which is evident. The inclusion of additional members doesn’t cover up any deep feelings and sentiments found when only the duo are playing. The same themes are there, and the same emotion is found on both discs; the arrangements are even practically the same.
The themes of lost friends, crawling before you can walk, waking up to find one’s self in a lost relationship are recurring on this album, as on albums past. One begins to wonder why the Indigo Girls haven’t yet found that light. They’re always sitting in the dark. As a fan of the Indigo Girls and having seen them recently on tour, their vocal interaction is still mesmerizing and is truly some of the best in the musical world. However, their onstage interaction was distant, and left one wondering if the creative chasm were expanding between them. A song like "Love of Our Lives" would be a wonderful companion piece to Shaming of the Sun, but these themes have grown tired, and hearing the Indigo Girls revisit them time and time again never provides a fresh perspective.
Bands grow by remaining loyal to their fan base, and not many bands can boast the fan base of loyalty found like the Indigo Girls can. However, they also grow by taking chances, and by experimenting outside of the comfort zone musically. Had Poseidon been the follow up to Strange Fire or even their self-titled release, their would be no room for doubting the album’s content, but 22 years into their career, a different perspective or creative chance would’ve been welcomed.
Poseidon and the Bitter Bug is out now on IG/Vanguard Records.