September 16, 2010

Test Spins: Sara Bareilles

Print More

When your debut single reaches the top of Billboard’s Pop Chart and your debut album reaches #7 on Billboard’s Album Chart, there is a certain expectation for future success. Yet, it seems as though Epic Records had very low expectations from Sara Bareilles’ sophomore effort, Kaleidoscope Heart.

Unlike her debut, which strayed little from straightforward piano pop, Kaleidoscope Heart is somewhat experimental. I say somewhat, because Bareilles never truly abandons her roots on this album. Lead single “King of Anything” is a bouncy number dripping with sass, a Bareilles specialty. It’s surprising that “King of Anything” hasn’t been embraced by Top 40 radio, given its toe-tapping chorus and anthem-like hook. Likewise, the sugary “Uncharted” sounds familiar upon first listen without feeling derivative.

On “Let The Rain” Bareilles reaffirms the notion that clapping loops almost always enhance a song. Similarly, the addition of snapping sounds elevate the already fun “Gonna Get Over You,” also noteworthy because of its ’50s inspired sound, and a chorus that comes complete with smooth, consonant vocal harmonies.

“Hold My Heart” sounds strikingly similar to a Ryan Tedder production, so much so that I’m shocked he didn’t produce the track. It’s on this earnest ballad that Sara flirts with the use of her falsetto. She also employs this tactic on the album’s closing number “Bluebird.” And while “Bluebird” opens strongly with a tragically beautiful first verse, its chorus is comparatively weak.

Though her more upbeat material is undeniably catchy, Bareilles’ ballads shine brighter this time around. “Breath Again” sounds like therapy on vinyl, and I mean that in the best way possible. But, it’s the barebones honesty of “Basket Case” that cements it as the album’s best track. “I’m not an open book you can rifle through” sings Bareilles over the harmonica layer that she herself recorded. Yet, in many ways, this album feels like a diary set to music.


Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht