Recording information: Canterbury Recording; Electric Lady; Germano Studios; House Of Blues Studio, CA; Indian River Studios, FL; Sunset Sound Studios.
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. It's moody and textured, rolling out at a deliberate pace and colored in blues and greys, skillfully skirting the edges of alienation -- for as much as Bareilles can occasionally suggest early Fiona Apple, as she does once again on "Hercules," there is no chance she'll chuck it all in and deliver a piano-and-drums excursion into the avant-garde -- by asking listeners to lean in so they can absorb all the details. 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. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine