Sarah Bareilles delivers a very strong selection of songs on her new album The Blessed Unrest. While we have grown to expect greatness from the critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated pop star, The Blessed Unrest stretches the artist’s horizons, proving her studio work can be an enhancement to her well established singing and songwriting skills.
On album opener and lead single “Brave,” Sarah Bareilles sings an uplifting melody with conviction over roaring piano chords. Songwriter Jack Antonoff of the band Fun co-wrote this song and the result is a bold anthem of a pop song. Excellent lyrics on “Chasing the Sun” display introspective lines reflecting on the difficulties of making music as an individual buried in the depths of New York City. Bareilles’ voice comes through strong and directly on pitch. On “Hercules” Sarah admits “I want to give up and start over” over staccato piano that leads us into a rolling chorus complete with backing vocals and a tempo change and she sings “I was meant to be a warrior, please make me a Hercules,” like a hero alienated at the top The quiet beauty of “Manhattan” is heart wrenching. Despair over lost love meets a traveling melody expertly crooned over deep minor key chords.
“Satellite Call” is a highlight, featuring a slow steady beat, effected vocals and a sense of importance in each measure. Bareilles nicely sings in the chorus: “Tonight you’re not alone at all, this is me sending out my satellite call.” The next track “Little Black Dress,” lightens the mood, introducing some light trumpet in the backing track. “Cassiopeia” expands on some previous effect-based material featured earlier on the album. The dynamic, heavy synthesizers in the chorus comes across as a nice step forward for Bareilles. She re-enters her deeper material for the serious “1,000 Times.” Well written lyrics of a heartbroken woman troubled by remaining love for her lost one stand out here and elsewhere. Hope returns on the lighthearted “I Choose You,” which is reportedly the second single to be released off this album.
The dynamic “Eden” goes in the “Cassiopeia” direction, showing her chops on a heavily effected jam that enters a sort of synthesizer dance beat during the chorus. This song is even more of a diversion on the album than others, but shows Sarah’s versatility. The beautiful “Islands” tells the story of growing up alone in the world and learning to cherish it. The closer “December” seems to conclude her self-reflection with a sense of hope and fulfillment, acknowledging the ups and downs of life as a necessary part of growth.
As a whole, the album reverberates with themes of perseverance through heartache and the roller coaster of emotions in love and life. The album is certainly well-written throughout, though seems to lack a concise direction as Sarah explores styles previously unseen in her other work. The production is credited to Sarah Bareilles, John O’Mahony and Kurt Uenala on all songs except for the two singles “Brave” and “I Choose You,” as well as “Chasing the Sun,” which are credited to industry heavyweight Mark Endert (Fiona Apple, The Fray, Maroon 5). Epic Records released the album on July 12th.