By Lisa Occhino
I think it would be best for me to start this off will full disclosure: I am a huge Sara Bareilles fan. (And if you’ve been reading The Groove for a while, you’ve probably begun to notice a trend in my Editor’s Picks.) My musical taste is all over the place, but she’s one of the only singer/songwriters who’s had a steady influence on my music and has remained a constant inspiration in my life. I’ve always felt very connected with Sara’s work, and upon first listen of The Blessed Unrest, I found that the next chapter of her musical journey is no exception.
“I named this record after a famous quote from Martha Graham, who says that this sense of feeling unsettled with what you have created is actually a divine gift, meant to drive us forward into our future endeavors,” Sara explained in the email newsletter she sent out on the day of the album release. “I love that idea. Onward towards our future selves.”
The California native took a leap of faith and made the move to New York City, providing her with the inspiration for several tracks on the album. This most obviously manifests itself in the tender ballad “Manhattan” and also sets the scene for “Chasing the Sun,” which explores the heavy topic of mortality: “So how do you do it with just words and just music / Capture the feeling that my earth is somebody’s ceiling / Can I deliver in sound, the weight of the ground / Of a cemetery in the center of Queens.” This was the first track that immediately grabbed me, and one that I believe is a strong contender to be the single that follows “Brave.”
In an interview with Billboard, Sara explains that she wanted to challenge herself by approaching her songwriting process from a completely new perspective for the creation of this record: “I felt antsy when thinking about coming from the same angle [with this album],” she says. “Like, ‘OK, I’m going to sit down at the piano and write some songs, then I’ll pick a producer.’ The whole methodology being a mirror image of what had come before just wasn’t feeling exciting.” Her new creative approach is best exemplified in “Eden,” “Satellite Call,” and “Cassiopeia,” in which she steps away from her tried-and-true pop piano formula and branches out with the incorporation of synthy textures, subject matter that goes far beyond the usual falling in love and heartbreak, and unusual forms that don’t necessarily fit into the pop mold.
But not to worry, fans of her getting-over-a-breakup songs – “Little Black Dress” is very reminiscent of “Gonna Get Over You” with the punchiness of “King of Anything,” reminding us that fun, upbeat, piano-based songs are still very much a part of her musical personality.
For some reason, “I Choose You” was one that didn’t hit me right away, but over the course of a few days, this sweet love song managed to gradually grow on me until I had it on repeat. “1000 Times” takes the cake on this album for track that cuts to your core the deepest, especially Sara’s emotional delivery on the final chorus: “’Cause I would die to make you mine / Bleed me dry each and every time / I don’t mind, no I don’t mind it / I would come back 1000 times.” It doesn’t quite live up to her older songs like “Gravity,” “The Light,” and “Breathe Again” in the chills inducing, tug-at-the-heartstrings department, but it’s definitely up there.
In the aforementioned email newsletter, Sara went on to say: “I am as proud of this as I am of anything I have ever done, and although it’s scary to let it go, I know it makes so much more sense in your hands than mine. I am grateful, and I am content. Today I am satisfied.”
Give The Blessed Unrest a listen if you haven’t already. Trust me, it’s worth it.