To Love Is to Live, the new release from Savages front woman Jehnny Beth, will to some degree meet fan expectations. The album is a good representation of Beth’s stern, serious meditations on life, society and her place within it as a woman. However, this is not a Savages album, and Beth makes that distinction quite clear. Rather than staying within her comfort zone of dour post-punk, Beth delivers a jittery, electronic affair that, ironically, makes her music seem more empathetic than it ever has.

Although it sounds nothing like commercial product, To Love Is to Live is in some ways Jehnny Beth’s modern pop album. The French-born singer-songwriter rejects the monochromatic arrangements of Savages in favor of a more open approach. Here she embraces punk, industrial and electro-pop with aplomb, switching deftly between palatable anger and soft-spoken vulnerability from track to track. She can be brash, but she also embraces a seductive quality in her voice that is both alluring and uncomfortable, depending on what she’s singing. It’s these quieter moments, such as on “The Rooms” or “The French Countryside,” where Beth does her best work and where To Love Is to Live really hits hardest. Beth’s vocal performances were always her strength, but her strident rage, while inspiring at points, came across as one-note after a while. In moments where things soften and she lets her guard down, she reveals that, as a vocalist and a lyricist, she can cut deeper than anyone expected.

Musically, though, To Love Is to Live is more defined by Beth’s collaborators than by the leader herself. While her lyrics and perspective are a driving force, in working with the likes of Flood and Atticus Ross, among others, one can’t help but hear the sounds of other musicians. Single “Heroine” will likely draw some inevitable PJ Harvey comparisons, but that would be less for Beth’s vocal performance and more because Flood’s production work inevitably recalls the sort of music he and Harvey have created before. It’s a little disappointing, given how much of herself Beth reveals on this album, that To Love Is to Live sometimes doesn’t quite feel like her work alone.

For whatever merits Savages had as a band, they always seemed to hold themselves back; they used a layer of arch, politicized grandstanding and performative rage to keep themselves at a distance from the listener. To Love Is to Live, for all its inconsistencies, doesn’t do that. Beth recently told The Guardian that, if the album has a theme, it’s “the multiplicity and complexity of being human.” Beth strives for that human connection on this album, and she gives us more of herself than she may feel comfortable with. In doing so, though, she has crafted an artistic experience more affecting and moving than anything she has done before.

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