Ultimately, what once was Williams's greatest asset now works against her: Her dry, hoarse voice used to drip with emotion; on "West," she snarls to the point of seeming harsh and detached, even on the most tender lyrics. She tackles the melancholy "Where Is My Love?" with a grating whine rather than the wistful sigh it requires, and she sludges through her adjustment to a breakup on "Learning How to Live" with such a flat delivery that it sounds not only sorrowless but also formulaic.
Glimmers of the Williams of yesteryear do occasionally peek through: She enhances the contemplative feel of "Rescue" with gentler vocals and a stunning string melody. Despite the coarseness in her voice on "Fancy Funeral," her cynical outlook and grief-laden tone expose her devastation at her mother's death. Unfortunately for Williams, though, those poignant moments grow fewer with every album, leaving little hope for a return to her warmer, more engaging sound.
-- Catherine P. Lewis