Album Review: The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
The Blessed Unrest is the flip side of Kaleidoscope Heart, the 2010 album that presaged Sara Bareilles' move into the mainstream, giving the singer/songwriter her first number one album and opening the door for a gig on network television hosting the competition The Sing-Off. Kaleidoscope Heart was bright and almost baroque, its arrangements lush and large, the kind of record that seems hazily triumphant -- which it was, to the extent that it was following her breakthrough hit "Love Song," the kind of single that could've pegged her as a one-hit wonder along the lines of Vanessa Carlton. Bareilles escaped that fate, as that spot on The Sing-Off illustrates, but The Blessed Unrest doesn't quite feel like a record written in the wake of such success.
“Anchored home in her interstellar sea / But poor lonely Cassiopeia.” The featured line is excerpted from Sara Bareilles’ “Cassiopeia”, one of several “heady” tracks from her latest effort, The Blessed Unrest. As alluded to by the aforementioned lyric, Bareilles has a prodigious gift for words; she’s incredibly poetic and refined with her pen. The rub with being such an ambitious singer/songwriter is that sometimes your gift can present itself to others as indulgent.
Four albums in, the singer-pianist behind the hit "Love Song" has not shed her major songwriting affliction: She's just too diplomatic. The Blessed Unrest is full of broad, exposition-heavy vignettes of heartache and resiliency; the songs feel groomed for rom-com soundtracks, from the benign post-split nightlife ode "Little Black Dress" to "Manhattan," a devastated ballad where Bareilles promises her ex she'll flee the island because she's no longer "one half of two." The road odyssey "Islands" hints at more adventurous paths left unexplored in its abstract piano and slightly distorted harmonies – odd, intriguing tools she could use for a second-act career twist, if she indulges them. .
Sara Bareilles sings “Manhattan” with heavy exhaustion, like a woman beaten down by the marathon she’s just finished. “You can have Manhattan, I know it’s for the best,” she exhales, over a dark, slow-moving piano, redolent of the early, elegantly pugnacious Billy Joel. “I’ll gather ….