Showing posts with label sara bareilles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sara bareilles. Show all posts

Thursday, April 25, 2019

video review: 'amidst the chaos' by sara bareilles

So yeah, this is one that I've left on the back burner for some time, but I'm happy I got a chance to review it just the same - not sure how many will care, but still, pleased to go back.

Next up... well, this Mountain Goats album is a thing, but I am seeing Avengers Endgame tomorrow, so stay tuned!

album review: 'amidst the chaos' by sara bareilles

You know, of all the releases over the past couple of weeks, it seems like this is the one that's flown under the radar the most.

And it's not hard to see why: outside of the singles, most of the mainstream seems to have had a touch-and-go relationship with Sara Bareilles' brand of sharply written adult-alternative indie pop - they're not going to complain about getting tunes like 'Love Song' or 'King Of Anything' or even 'Brave', but they're not really going to go out of their way to find more from her. Which is a shame, because while I'd struggle to put her among the upper tier of piano-driven pop rock - it's a crowded field, and while I think her albums are consistently pretty good I'd struggle to call her great across the board - I think Sara Bareilles has a lot going for her with a strident vocal tone, well-structured lyrics, and a pop sensibility that can give her a sense of accessibility and make her easier to revisit than many of her peers.

That said, the flip side to this is if she can't deliver the hooks or a more striking performance, it's easy to brush her music aside, and as much as I think there are some underrated album cuts on her 2013 album The Blessed Unrest, underwhelming compositions and slightly oversold production combined with weaker writing did leave the album as rather forgettable, or at the very least not as cutting as she's been in the past. Now that review was one of the first I ever put to video, so I was curious to revisit her material over a thousand reviews later, especially given this new album was coming off a lot of well-received stage work and was looking to get a lot more political. What caught more of my interest were cowriting credits from Lori McKenna - who I still hold as one of the best writers working in music of all genres right now - so I'll admit I had some high expectations yet again, so what did we find from Amidst The Chaos?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

the top ten best hit songs of 2010 (VIDEO)

I'm so damn glad this turned out as well as it did, especially as I had to re-edit to avoid the damn copyright bot. In any case, thank you all for watching and subscribing, I dearly appreciate it!

Friday, October 13, 2017

the top ten best hit songs of 2010

I have to admit, when I first added the highest tier option to include requests for a top ten list, I had no idea what was going to be requested. Opening up the vast decades of Billboard history meant this could go in any direction, and that could mean a wealth of new discoveries. And thus our first Patreon request is for the best hit songs of... 2010.

Monday, July 15, 2013

album review: 'the blessed unrest' by sara bareilles

The year was 2007, and Billboard's Hot 100 chart was surging on a wave of hits. The pop rock boom of the mid-2000s was at its peak, Justin Timberlake had released his smash album Futuresex Lovesounds and with collaborators Nelly Furtado and Timbaland had taken the charts by storm. Coupled with the creative resurgence of Gwen Stefani, the peak of Fergie's, Akon's and Avril Lavigne's careers, Kanye West's well-publicized rivalry with 50 Cent, and the arrival of soon-to-be megastar Rihanna, it was a year full of monster hits that remain surprisingly solid to this day. Sure, there is a fair amount of junk - mostly courtesy of Nickelback and the post-grunge movement that just wouldn't goddamn die - but the hits of this year aren't just good, they probably can be considered some of the definitive tracks of the decade. And what's more impressive is that so many acts reached creative high-points in 2007, most of which would carry over into the slightly weaker (but still shockingly good) 2008. 

And it's not just that these songs were good (because a lot of them weren't) - they stuck in the cultural consciousness and most remain just as well-remembered six years later. This was the year Carrie Underwood smashed through with 'Before He Cheats', Maroon 5 released 'Makes Me Wonder', Beyonce dropped 'Irreplaceable', The Fray put out 'How To Save A Life', Snow Patrol charted with 'Chasing Cars', and even Amy Winehouse broke through with 'Rehab'. Hell, even the one-hit wonders of the time like 'Hey There Delilah' by the Plain White T's managed to lodge its way into our minds and bury themselves in the cultural unconscious. Even if you weren't paying any attention to the radio in 2007, I can guarantee that most of you recognize the songs I just listed, and frankly, I didn't even touch half of it.

But it's also in 2007 that a newly signed singer-songwriter named Sara Bareilles was asked to finish off her major label debut with a love song. But the songwriting process was going nowhere, and a fit of rage, she wrote one of the defining hits of the decade, a song blasting her label in a fit of angry guitar and pounding piano. And while it wouldn't seriously impact the charts until 2008, Sara Bareilles' 'Love Song' is a staple of the decade and a goddamn masterpiece of pop music. Every element works incredibly well - the sharp edges of the lyrics, the pounding instrumentals that speak to raw frustration, the sheer passion in Bareilles' vocals - and it all comes together into a song that speaks to creative frustration and the drive for independence. And speaking as a creator, I can definitely get behind this particular sentiment.

And thus I had reasonably high expectations when I went through Sara Bareilles' major label releases before The Blessed Unrest, and the underlying hope that 'Love Song' wasn't just a flash in the pan. And for once, things turned out well, with both of her albums being very solid, very well-written pop rock that sticks in the memory (with Little Voice arguably being a touch better than Kaleidoscope Heart). Described by some critics as a blend between Alicia Keys and Regina Spektor (the latter whose album I reviewed last year), Sara Bareilles manages to combine the best elements of both artists, despite them being in a genre for which I typically have a distaste: the 'White-Girl-With-Piano' genre. Now I'll admit my opinions have evolved since I reviewed What We Saw From The Cheap Seats last year, and while I'm still not a fan of the genre, I think I've been able to pinpoint why: there is very little diversity when it comes to subject matter and execution. 

I realize that I'm definitely not the target audience for Sara Bareilles and her contemporaries' work, but I can't help but notice that the genre often fails to stretch itself both in the material and the delivery, which can lead to a certain smug self-satisfaction dominating tracts of the material. It's not just that it feels interchangeable and boring, but that there is no deeper passion underlying the work - and if there is, it doesn't feel authentic. And when some the artists (Regina Spektor and Lily Allen comes to mind) do try to stretch the subject matter, they come across as so insufferably pleased with themselves that it becomes intolerable. 

So what makes Sara Bareilles stand out against the crowd? Well, unlike her contemporaries, she often seems to be trying, incorporating a greater vocal presence and more passionate soul into her delivery. Yes, I'll admit that most of the time the subject matter is small and reasonably simple, but she sells it and it feels real. And in comparison to Alicia Keys, Sara Bareilles is smart enough to delve into a greater spread of subject matter and instrumentation other than just underwritten piano-driven ballads. It definitely helps that Sara Bareilles has a real knack for punchy, sly little rhymes that show some clever construction. No, it's not quite as organic as Kacey Musgraves, but it's close. And really, the harshest criticism I'll make against Sara Bareilles is that sometimes she just doesn't try as hard as she could, which lead to serviceable, but occasionally tedious songs.

So what do I think about her newest album, The Blessed Unrest?

Youtube review after the jump.