Sara Bareilles: The Blessed Unrest (Epic)
This is Sara B’s third studio album for a major label and comes highly anticipated.
Her debut Little Voice really put her on the map when it enjoyed the summery smash hit titled Love Song.
Her follow up album three years later, Kaleidoscope Heart, sold at No. 1 on the Billboard charts (but only at No. 13 with discerning Canadian buyers) though the album went hit-less.
This third album, again three years in the making, aims to show that Bareilles isn’t just a one-hit wonder but I don’t think that will be the case. The fact that she takes three years between releases seems to indicate that Bareilles is not a natural when it comes to writing frothy pure pop songs. Moreover, I don’t think she cares.
Bareilles has become more of a listeners singer-songwriter and the new single off The Blessed Unrest, titled Brave, is only a minor hit so far and it is the only song to feature a hint of a hip hop pulse in its mix.
The rest of this disc comes across as more autumnal than a summer pop album and The Blessed Unrest is suited more for late night listening than blasting out at a BBQ.
There are plenty of arty and ruminative down tempo songs here including the moody Islands with its hints of Kate Bush and the dour 1000 Times that comes across as a little too desperate.
The song Hercules addresses her lack of inspiration with “its a calcifying crime,” while the plodding Satellite is about her loneliness.
There are a couple of songs that step out of the doldrums. Little Black Dress features the horns of The Dap Kings for a ’60s retro girl group groove, while the mid-tempo Eden has Prince electro-pop DNA all over it.
Bareilles’ large fan base will scoop this new album up but a less committed listener twitted a humorous one letter notice with ‘Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ after Billboard left a song by song review.
Court Yard Hounds: Amelita (Columbia)
This is the second album from sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robinson while the Dixie Chicks try to figure out if they still exist as a group now that lead singer Natalie Maines has also released her solo album a couple of months ago.
While Maines released a disc of nearly all rock covers, the Court Yard Hounds’ sophomore album crystallizes their country folk roots music with an acoustic bent and angelic harmonies.
The Court Yard Hounds debut of a couple of years ago sold in the top 10 in both Canada and the USA but it also went hit-less even on country radio.
Amelita is a much better album with strong all original songs.
I think the key track here is the semi-sarcastic lead off song, Sunshine, which is about a jerk husband not unlike the Dixie Chicks’ main character in Goodbye Earl…that the Chicks killed off in their narrative.
The Court Yard Hounds just don’t have that edge that they had with Maines at the lead vocal and the worst that Sunshine gets is the sarcastic re-post “we call you sunshine.”
The sisters really don’t have a mean bone in their bodies and that comes across on these likable and intriguing songs. The Court Yard Hounds sound more authentic on songs like the mellow The World Smiles “…at me, the best things in life are free” and on the philosophical Aimless Upward and “we are seeds with promises to keep”.
However the ladies do step out for a credible country rocker with Rock All Night that Sheryl Crow fans would like, while there is some cool alt-bluegrass on Phoebe where their band offers a jam band outro.
Not Earth shattering or nearly as powerful as the Dixie Chicks catalogue but well worth a listen.
San Cisco: (RCA/Sony)
San Cisco are an Australian indie-pop band who have released a few EPs in Oz and I believe this 12-song debut album is a collection of some of the better songs off those EPs and a few new recordings.
As you can imagine this self-titled disc is a real grab bag of songs and styles but mostly this is pure indie pop for fans of the form.
There is the pure breezy pop of Fred Astaire “he’s the man for you” (as opposed to the singer who sings it) and the quirky dance rock of Stella and the Foster The People-like groove found on Wild Things.
Rocket Ship is nonsensical fun lyrically while No Friends is power pop with an attitude.
I kinda like the fact this foursome, with three guys and a girl, met and formed in high school and aren’t from some TV reality show.
An act to watch while they are making sizable hits down under.