Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Album Review - Eternal Return

by Sarah Blasko (out November 6, 2015)

At this point, a new album from Sarah Blasko is like catching up with that friend you just don't get to see as much as you'd like. The visits might be few and far between, once every couple of years or so, but you know you're going to have the best time while they're around. And you're going to have memories of the experiences you've shared forever. Yep, five studio albums in and Sarah Blasko is pretty much your musical BFF (at least she should be, get on board already why don't 'cha?). Widely regarded as one of the most intriguing and emotionally engaging artists in the world, Blasko shows there's still so many sides of her we've yet to see on Eternal Return. Those that she reveals throughout this ten track collection could prove to be her most endearing yet as she steps away from the cinematic orchestrations of I Awake and into dreamy, synth-heavy soundscapes. You'll want to dance. You'll sigh those sighs that can only come with the words of one of Australia's finest songwriters, who's approaching her music from a place far more content with life than what has come before. And you might even find your heart broken and put back together several times on a song or two. Ok, obviously. No matter how happy she is, this is still Sarah Blasko we're talking about. May she never completely change. 

"I never know what to say, but I heard that you were talking when I, turned my back that day... it hurt, but the truth is I asked for it." When it comes to first tracks, Sarah Blasko knows how to make a powerful entrance. Much like 'I Awake', Eternal Return opens with what feels like a declaration of intent, an announcement of the arrival of a chanteuse reborn. This time it's 'I Am Ready' declaring Blasko's arrival. Driving the point home, the synths almost emulate the sounds of blaring horns. She wants us to know she won't be holding back, she's ready to believe in herself and you'll be believing too as the music soars out into the atmosphere towards the finish. Oh, Sarah... it's good to have you back. 'I Wanna Be Your Man' is like the glorious 80s-prom throwback you didn't even realise you needed in your life. Just listen, you'll understand. Anyone afraid of how this foray into the world of the electronic would pan out can sleep easy tonight. The music is all kinds of beautiful.

Quirky and cute in all the right ways, 'Better With You' is just one not-so-subtle indication on Eternal Return that our leading lady might just be in luuurve. Woo-woo etc. "You could say I waited for you all this time, I won't deny the change I'm feeling I cannot hide... it's better with you." Sarah Blasko will make you believe in love again. Especially as the lines, "oh look at what we have it's getting better all the time," repeat at the end of the track. Hopefully you've already heard 'I'd Be Lost'. It's been getting a ton of deserved airplay on our national youth(ish?) broadcaster, alleviating my fears that Sarah would be relegated to the 2x j's as opposed to the 3x. How could they resist a song like 'I'd Be Lost' though? As close to a runaway pop smash as we're likely to ever experience from an artist who might never cross over into the Top 40, this is so different from what we've come to know about Sarah Blasko. Which is possibly why I wasn't enamored with it upon first listen. Like all great pop gems, 'I'd Be Lost' has a way of working its way into your brain and refusing to let go. Crafted expertly with coos in all the right places and finding Blasko falling deeper and deeper in love, this is a stand out moment on Eternal Return and shoots towards the top of a stellar catalogue of music.

Just as ready for radio is the following number, 'Maybe This Time'. Blasko's soulful, jazz-influenced vocals find the perfect partner in fantastic, dreamy atmosphere created on another song that's, you guessed it, about love. All the good songs are though, right? "It's beautiful now we reached the top, my love for you will never stop." What should seem so wrong is somehow so, so very right. I don't think Sarah's voice has ever sounded better than on 'Luxurious' and that's not something I'm just saying to exaggerate how wonderful her voice sounds on the song. I really don't think it's ever sounded better. Her control over her voice has always been a great strength, but with 'Luxurious' it's on another level. It's on another planet, because the song feels like it takes you into space on a beautiful journey of the cosmos. Sure, it's another song about love. But it's one of the most genuine depictions of love in song form you're likely to ever hear. With sparse electronic touches and a lone guitar, the weight of the emotional impact is left for Blasko's voice to deliver and she delivers in spades. Stunning isn't a strong enough word.. 

'Only One' and 'Say What You Want' power Eternal Return through towards its end. The former was released as a double single with 'I'd Be Lost' and has a video shot by Wilk due for release sometime soon. Another track destined for some radio love, its effortless and heartwarming nature make it more than deserving of the full-blown single treatment. 'Say What You Want' is a gorgeous addition, taking the woman from 'I Am Ready' and showing her dreams fulfilled. "It's hard to resist what is bathed in white, you lose part of yourself in all the shine so bright." What's this? Is the final track 'Without' closing Eternal Return  on a darker note? "If you have not love, you have nothing at all." This is definitely more a 'classic' Blasko sound. Leaning on those flat notes, the return of the piano. It creates a stark difference to the bouncy tracks that have come before. While I'm not up to date on the goings on of Sarah Blasko's personal life, I'd say 'Without' isn't a sign that things haven't ended the best. Instead, it's simply a reminder that life is nothing without love. So suck it, singles. Wait, that's probably not what she's going for there. Probably. 

You can count on Sarah Blasko to deliver an album you won't soon forget. On Eternal Return she puts her best feet forward and strives to bring you up with her. Undoubtedly romantic without succumbing to sappy lines about two becoming one (viva forever, I'll be waiting) this will go down as one of the finest tributes to the very best things about l-o-v-e. I never thought I'd be saying that about a Sarah Blasko album and yet here we are. How unexpected. How utterly brilliant.

Matt Bond gives Eternal Return five dancing lady emoji out of five...  

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