Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Track By Track Review: Sara Bareilles - The Blessed Unrest

One year after her short but sweet EP Once Upon Another Time stormed the Top 10 of Billboard's album chart, Sara returns with her 3rd LP. Preceded by the sleeper hit Brave, it's a sure fire 4th Top 10 album for Bareilles, but she'll have to compete with Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail and Chris Brown's X for the top slot.

Brave: Brave has been chugging its little engine for 3 months now, and has slowly but surely been climbing charts here in the States. Her label has said they expect the song to take 9 months before it lights up, like previous Bareilles singles. Anyways, the song itself isn't a piano led track, its more of a drum feat. piano track, which is a change for the Love Song starlet. It's another addition to the empowerment tracks that have been dominating charts since Firework lit up, and Brave should be no different. B+

Chasing The Sun: It's now become clear that living in New York has clearly influenced Bareilles (with the New York artwork, track titled Manhattan), as she sings about a cemetery in the center of Queens, Skyscrapers, and "Manhattan behind her." She also shows off her newly found pipes in the chorus, much like in Brave. The instrumentation paints the image of a sunset surprisingly well, considering the lyrics don't really discuss it. Overall it's a gorgeous up tempo track, instant stand-out. A

Hercules: Bye bye major keys and hello dissonance. It's a heavy recall of 2012's Lie To Me, with Cello's at the forefront, and heavy jazz influences. "There's a war inside my heart gone silent / with both sides dissatisfied and someone violent / the problem that I have begun to see / is that I am the only lonely causality." It's a huge lyrical standout, she tells the story of a warrior like an ancient story teller, which makes it a deeply romantic listen. A

Manhattan: Gravity has returned in the form of Manhattan (with some jazzy trumpets of course). "I'll gather up the avenues and leave them on your doorstep." She softy tells the story of a former lover who has essentially ruined Manhattan for her, so instead she'll "settle for the beach." It's soft and restrained, which is what her fans have come to love. However, that doesn't save it from feeling like its treading back into waters she's already covered. A-

Satellite Call: A heavier ballad than Manhattan, it starts with dark piano and ghostly harmonies, how exciting! The producer of this track deserves some recognition, because this production is pretty dang awesome, it excellently portrays an intergalactic feel. She hits some gorgeous head voice F#'s in the post-chorus, which adds to the haunting quality of the track. Despite all of that, it feels like its dragging on, so it sadly gets really old, really quick. B+

Little Black Dress: Just when you think you're in for yet another ballad, the drum kick starts. The oldies have returned, the funky piano, horns and owl calls could've found a home on a lighter version of The Great Gatsby soundtrack. It's very similar to Gonna get Over You, in the fact that its a happy, oldies break-up tune. And what is that in the final chorus? Could it be? Riffing? MADNESS. A

Cassiopia: Major scales storm the background of this track. She shows off her dark and coarse lower register here, a contrast from soaring high notes that have been sprinkled across the album. A sea of synths flood the chorus, with assistance from some trombones. B+

1000 Times: Hello cellos, and hello mournful ballad. It will have you sitting there like The Thinker, contemplating every lyric she says. She sings with phrasing similar to Taylor Swift, however Sara is far more sophisticated than Swift, in the fact that she knows her niche, and that this is it. A-

I Choose You: Far more quiet than the other bombastic tracks before it, its a welcome change. It allows Sara to show off her voice better than wailing over massive production. A standout in that it lacks something massive. A

Eden: Syncopations, layers of harmonies, synths and bongos creates a futuristic element. Easily the most interesting listen on the album. More. A+

Islands: The piano returns for the center credit here. This track along with Eden have completely sold the album for me. I need download links, NOW. Again, the production excellently illustrates the rolling of the waves, the horizon being "all we have," and of course Sara sounds as passionate as ever. "I can still count on one hand the number of good men I know." Ouch. A+

December: The credits roll on the album with acoustic guitars and no piano. Not much of an album closer, which makes it kind of disappointing. However, it's hard to be rough on the little guy, he has tough competition from his siblings. B

The Blessed Unrest is moving from start to finish, and is a welcome addition to Sara's discography. However, she does cover previous territory, such as Gonna Get Over You, Gravity and Lie To Me, which does make the album feel repetitive at some points, but this a minor quarrel for the glory of the album that is The Blessed Unrest. Will the singles be smashing the Hot 100? Probably not, radio isn't too friendly to legit Singer-Songwriter stylings, but Sara made a great album anyways, and thats what really matters.

Vocals: A
Production: A+
Lyrics: A
Overall: A