Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest

Sara Bareilles' new album, The Blessed Unrest, is influenced by her move from Los Angeles to New York.  She says that New York had always felt too overwhelming to her but that it now seems like an environment that she needed after all.  The idea of challenging oneself is probably the most important theme of the album.

The first track and single "Brave" is very poppy.  I wish Sara would do fewer poppy songs because she's a talented songwriter with great vocal facility and where she really shines has been with her ballads.  I am not suggesting that she should only do ballads, but for her more upbeat songs I wish she would get away from that kind of predictable, poppy sound.

"Hercules" is one of the best tracks--if not the best, and has piano chords reminiscent of those in Tori Amos' "Take to the Sky."  The theme of the song is about summoning extra strength.  Sara sings, "I'm on the hunt for who I've not yet become/But I'd settle for a little equilibrium."  I totally know what she means in terms of  earnestly pursuing your more evolved self but that in the meantime, why do you feel unsure and off balance?  She sings, "I have sent for a warrior/From on my knees, make me a Hercules/I was meant to be a warrior please/Make me a Hercules."  The theme of this song ties in nicely with that of "Brave."  "Hercules" hits the mark both sonically and lyrically.

"Manhattan" is a quiet ballad, piano and some horns.  Sara sings, "You can have Manhattan" and "Hang on to the reverie/Could you do that for me?/'Cause I'm just too sad to."  She realizes the good times spent there as a couple but can't quite bear to own them herself.  "1000 Times" is like "Hold My Heart" Part Two, a ballad with a plodding drumbeat and other instrumentation in addition to the piano:  since that was my favorite song off Sara's 2010 LP Kaleidoscope Heart, I promptly sent "1000 Times" into heavy replay.  "Satellite Call" bears some similarity to those songs but has more interesting things going on, particularly with her vocals.  The experimentation of this song is more what I think she should do than with "Eden" or "Cassiopeia," which I don't dislike but which both miss the mark a little bit.

Theme-wise, in addition to that of making courageous strides in life, there is one straight up love song, "I Choose You," and a few of the songs are about breakups or problems in romantic relationships (as were multiple songs on Kaleidoscope Heart).  Sara mostly plays to her strengths and this is a satisfying album.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

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