Sara Bareilles’ ‘The Blessed Unrest’: Review Revue

Pop singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles takes a musical leap with her fourth studio album, The Blessed Unrest, making her most mature and diverse-sounding album yet. In our own review of the “Brave” songstress’ latest album, we gave Bareilles four out of five star rating and addressed the singer’s sonic departure: “Sara’s lyrics are still as sharp, insightful and literate as we’ve come to expect from the woman behind tunes like ‘King Of Anything‘ and ‘Hold My Heart,‘ but this time around she creates in widescreen, embracing an unexpected pop sensibility and mixing up her usually narrow soundscape with subtle synths, hand claps and quirky samples.”

Other music critics shared our sentiments, while a couple had mixed thoughts on Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest. Head below to check out a roundup of reviews from top music publications.

:: Billboard considered the album a transitional release for the singer/songwriter: “The 12-song collection has its share of light fare that could earn spins on adult contemporary radio, but it’s also more lyrically daring and serious-sounding, as if Bareilles craned her neck to see Fiona Apple’s caliber of song craft and asked, ‘Why can’t I do that?’…Bareilles’ new album was the result of unrest, but as its title suggests, she has positively embraced her dissatisfaction and subsequently grown as an artist.”

:: Newsday gives The Blessed Unrest  a positive B+ rating, with little in the way of complaints: “Bareilles’ biggest surprise may be the hushed, jazzy simplicity of the piano ballad ‘Manhattan,’ where she creates one of the loveliest pop moments of the year so far while displaying the power and pain in her clear, distinct vocals…Not all of Bareilles’ experiments work, though. ‘Satellite Call’ gets a bit too bogged down in new-agey production and swampy effects…However, Bareilles deserves credit for not holding anything back on The Blessed Unrest, and that paid off handsomely.”

:: Toronto Star gave the album 2.5/4 stars, while comparing unfavorably it to the singer’s past work: “What works best is when she goes the more direct route: ‘Little Back Dress’ is a fun, lighthearted foray into escapism that is stellar pop, projecting a slight ’60s feel with accented horns and a simple, appealing melody… Not as appealing as 2010’s Kaleidoscope Heart, Bareilles needs to break it down to the basics in order to distinguish herself from the slew of piano-playing, confessional singer-songwriters like Regina SpektorRachael Yamagata and others of the same ilk.”

:: AllMusic was pleasantly surprised with the record, praising the songwriting: “There are moments of levity here, such as the effervescent ‘Little Black Dress’ and the subtly synthesized rhythms on ‘Eden,’ but they’re here to provide necessary texture and relief, puncturing the cool nocturnal glow of The Blessed Unrest just enough so the album opens up and doesn’t feel mopey. Then again, Bareilles is such a naturally melodic songwriter that she doesn’t run much of a risk of seeming insular on The Blessed Unrest and, fortunately, the feel of the album follows the contours of her melodies, so its melancholy is warm and inviting.”

:: Rolling Stone had mixed feelings about the album, feeling Bareilles’ could push her musical efforts even more: “Four albums in, the singer-pianist behind the hit “Love Song” has not shed her major songwriting affliction: She’s just too diplomatic… 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.”

:: The New York Times had a few constructive words for Bareilles and her album:  “The Blessed Unrest is all shoulder-drooping heft, and her musical choices are vexing. On ‘Hercules,’ she’s Fiona Apple manquée, and barely that; ‘Eden’ conveys early Madonna, of all things; and ‘Islands’ suggests that Enya may have popped up on Ms. Bareilles’s iTunes shuffle with some regularity. Ms. Bareilles is hiding behind styles that aren’t her own. Only on ‘Little Black Dress’ does that strategy pay off. It sounds like an Amy Winehouse sketch, with a zippy horn-led arrangement. Vocally, Ms. Bareilles sounds bright, too, and comfortable — doing her familiar trick of making the melancholy chirp.”

:: AbsolutePunk raved about the new dark and mature Bareilles: “But as much as I love her catchy pop songs and her forays into more uncharted territory, it’s when Bareilles slows down the tempo that she really knocks it out of the park. There aren’t many singer/songwriters working today who can craft a better ballad, and The Blessed Unrest only offers further evidence of that. ‘Manhattan’ recalls some of her earliest work—think ‘Gravity’ from the first two records — and sounds classy and timeless in such a way that it’s almost remarkable the song didn’t exist until this year.”