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Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest

Lisa Ward


It seems anthemic songs about coming out and acceptance are everywhere right now, and whilst Kacey Musgraves is raising the rainbow flag in the country realms, Bareilles offers her own pop counterpart in the form of Brave. The song also paves the way for a heartfelt album fuelled by themes of acceptance and alienation, with the title accurately capturing the emotional turmoil that she explores in each song.

The haunting melody of Satellite Call sees her lyrically call out to the ‘lonely child’, her voice distorted by echoes adding to the sense of space between her and the listener.  Meanwhile I Choose You is a powerful love ballad, the minor key juxtaposing the upbeat lyrics. This contrasts the somewhat grandiose Manhattan, which sees her dedicate an entire New York State to an absent flame. It’s here and in Chasing The Sun, a song which places her in a cemetery in Queens, which realise the influence of her move to the Big Apple.

Whilst Little Back Dress has most potential for mainstream success with its big beats and it’s more pop style, it’s also this song which seems the least inspired. Its twee nature allows for a song which revels in independence but it’s a theme which feels like it’s already been covered amply in songs like King of Anything and Love Song. Hercules on the other hand displays her quest for independence and strength in a whole different way, and as she sings “I’m on the hunt for who I’ve not yet become but I’d settle for a little equilibrium” it seems to highlight the disorientation of the album, which flicks between songs of strength and songs of loss.

Though the album starts with songs of acceptance, it seems to drift to the melancholic as it draws to a close. Islands explores the notion of separation and it’s here her trademark heavy piano accompaniments combine with the sadness in her vocals to create a heart wrenching number. This in turn leads into closer December, which pays homage to a month which holds both promise and darkness. Whether intentional or not, it marks the perfect ending to a twelve track album which seems to chart the highs and lows over the progression of a year; from the encouragement to speak out and resolve to be brave in the opener, to the reflection of the closer.

The Blessed Unrest offers Bareilles’ boldest and most accomplished work to date, channelling the poetry of songs like Gravity and coupling them with the musical ambition of Not Alone. Whilst the piano melody is still at the heart of the recording, it feels like Bareilles has managed to really spread her wings and in turn produces an album which is both intricate and thoughtful, and with enough staying power to keep the listener interested through to its closing bar.