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Sara Bareilles Shines On 'The Blessed Unrest'

Alicia Dewell |
July 16, 2013 | 5:39 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Bareilles's fourth effort is another solid release. (via Wikimedia)
Bareilles's fourth effort is another solid release. (via Wikimedia)
With her fourth full-length album, "The Blessed Unrest," released July 16th, Sara Bareilles delivers yet another cohesive and engaging record.

Characterized by sweeping melodies, insightful lyrics and a powerful voice (both literally and metaphorically), "The Blessed Unrest" presents a mature Bareilles. Notions of self-empowerment, change, and acceptance infiltrate the tracks.

Some songs like the haunting "Chasing The Sun" and the break-up ballad "Manhattan" are undoubtedly standouts. Yet with each listen, it becomes more evident why each track earned its place among the thirteen.

"The Blessed Unrest" focuses on themes of change and shifting perspective, and her musical style reflects this. No, Bareilles isn’t afraid to alter her style, shy away from her signature sound or experiment with new things.

As a result, the album delivers a little bit of everything, painting a cohesive picture of, what else? A state of blessed unrest.

By now Bareilles clearly knows her strengths, and she wields them well without letting them limit her. She remains true to the talents that have gotten her to this point in her career, but her willingness to try new things and expand as an artist is what will keep her interesting and relevant for years to come.

The first single of the album, "Brave," co-written by Jack Antonoff of fun., is an upbeat, full blown pop song, begging listeners to adopt self-acceptance. With a resounding chorus of  “I wanna see you be brave,” this up-tempo, call-to-arms sets the tone for an album focused on bravery, change and self-empowerment.

With the chill-inducing "Chasing The Sun,"Bareilles reminds us exactly why we fell in love with her in the first place. The memento mori of the album, so to speak, this piano-heavy track combines a haunting melody, beautiful imagery, brilliant lyrics, and Bareilles’ signature vocals to create a near-perfect, life-affirming song. If this were the only good song on the album, which it is thankfully not, the album would still be well worth purchasing.

"Hercules," with its unsettling, staccato, rhythm is a musical representation of discontent. Internal struggle manifested lyrically and musically. It offers a glimpse into a stream-of-consciousness battle occurring deep within her head.

Beautiful in its simplicity, "Manhattan" is a raw and emotional ballad that showcases Bareilles’ vocal range and uncanny ability to capture a feeling in song. This slow breakup ballad draws you in with its New York imagery and smooth, jazz-like vibe. It furthers the record's themes of transition and acceptance and stays true to the uniquely captivating sound only Bareilles can deliver.

Perhaps the most experimental track on the album, "Satellite Call" employs vocal effects and a celestial tone to enhance the use of space imagery in conveying its message of reconciling loneliness.

The up-tempo "Little Black Dress" shows Bareilles taking control. With a rhythmic beat and relatable lyrics, this fun and empowering number paints the picture of someone who desperately wants to be over a breakup but isn’t quite there yet.

The narrative "Cassiopeia" revisits the celestial vibe of "Satellite Call," but with a more upbeat, less atmospheric tone.

The love songs "1000 Times" and "I Choose You" call back to the style of Bareilles’ previous albums, showcasing her unique lyrical delivery and signature vocals.

With "Eden," Bareilles puts her own spin on Eden imagery. Strong, powerful vocals and a pulsating rhythm coupled with an infectiously catchy chorus, deliver an enticing meditation on change.

"Islands" employs soft piano and sultry vocals to convey a vulnerable display of uncertainty and heartache.

"December," with its poignant, melodic simplicity, feels like the musical equivalent of an old, comfortable blanket. With this track Bareilles takes us from New York to Los Angeles. A fitting choice for nearing the end of the record, it perfectly exemplifies the complexity of transition, shifting perspective, and finding balance. The nostalgic "December" comes off as equally hopeful and reflective. There is a distinct lightness in Bareilles’ voice that tells of someone who went through a lot to get to this place. A place of hesitant acceptance tinged with the insatiable desire to keep moving forward.

The final track, "I Wanna Be Like Me," returns to the style and message of Brave with an upbeat tempo, and clear message of self-acceptance and empowerment.

Overall, "The Blessed Unrest" may at times deviate in style from Bareilles’ previous work, but it never strays from the quality we have come to expect from her. "A Blessed Unrest" shows Sara Bareilles at her best and most nuanced, leaving us grateful and aching for more.

Read more of NT's album reviews here.

Reach Staff Reporter Alicia Dewell here.



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