By Nick Manteris · 2 Comments · Leave a Comment
Kaleidoscope Heart is the second major-label release from Sara Bareilles. Her first album, Little Voices, instantly became a top seller on iTunes when it was released and was certified Gold less than a year later. “Love Song” was the driving force behind the success of that album and it remains her biggest hit. In the “non-fancy” bio on her website, she explains that the pressure of living up to expectations after a hit album not only caused fear and anxiety, but it also made her worry that maybe she had already written her best material. Personally, I don’t think her best work has been written yet, but that’s just me. (And as anyone who knows me knows: I am just a cheerful, bubbly fountain of optimism and hope. That’s a joke, btw: I rarely possess those qualities.)
Sara Bareilles has a series of behind-the-scenes webisodes that begin with her in Vancouver filming the video for “King of Anything” and then show her in the studio working on several different songs from Kaleidoscope Heart. “Uncharted” is supposedly the focal point that allowed the rest of the songs to be written and the title of the album is taken from the lyrics. I liked the tiny excerpt from the Making of Kaleidoscope Heart - Episode 2 better than the finished product, which became slightly too – for lack of a better word – pop-y. “Gonna Get Over You” is a surprisingly upbeat track – considering the fact that it’s a post-breakup song – but that’s probably a really good, positive, empowering thing, so I can’t fault it for that. The best part of “Hold My Heart” is the line “…before the sun goes dark” and this song sets the quality mid-point for the album. At first, I didn’t care for “King of Anything” very much at all, but it has grown on me in the three months since the original release date. I’m sure my initial disappointment was because the song didn’t sound anything like my favorite song from her. For most people, that song might be the multi-platinum single, “Love Song,” but for me, the quintessential Sara Bareilles song is “Come Round Soon.” (And as much as I love the dark, sultry groove of that song, I also really, really like this live version of “Come Round Soon” that she has given the upbeat treatment.) Anyway, I can’t judge something against what I wanted it to be, it has to be judged on its own merits and “King of Anything” is a better-than-average song…that, unfortunately for me, (and probably just me, to be sure,) just doesn’t happen to live in the same neighborhood as “Come Round Soon.” “Say You're Sorry” and “Machine Gun” are on the same level as “Hold My Heart” and “The Light” joins “King of Anything” in the “very good” category. The lowest point on the album, “Basket Case,” is a slow, country-esque traipse through a realm bordering on codependency that is not my preferred landscape to explore. “Let the Rain” is the best song on the album – with the most intensity – and it contains the most perplexing lyrics: “I wish I were pretty, I wish I were brave.” (Clearly, Sara Bareilles is already both of these things.) Another highlight is “Not Alone,” which has that dark vibe that I like so much and, even though the chorus is less-than-dark, it’s accentuated by an Alfred Hitchcock sample, so darkness wins in the end. “Breathe Again” is a slow, powerful track on the good side of the spectrum and “Bluebird” closes the album out back near the average mark… but I definitely appreciate the latter song more after watching Sara in the studio recording it.
Kaleidoscope Heart might not possess any songs that immediately surpass her best tracks from Little Voice, but it’s definitely not a sophomore slump and it’s obvious that Sara Bareilles is only getting started as an artist. She seems so fun and has a great sense of humor… I’d love to have the opportunity to try and write songs with someone so full of energy and humor and music. See Sara’s Christmastime “Ode to the Jersey Shore” for an example of how funny she can be. (And, once again, I digress. Oops.) Kaleidoscope Heart is just as good as her debut, but for fans of Little Voice that that still have concerns, Sara herself says, “it’s gonna be really different …but not too different, but, like... just different enough. You’re gonna like it.” I couldn’t agree more.