Sara Bareilles is known for her honesty. Her songs are often as genuine as they come, dealing with real people and actual events, and they resonate. 2007's "Love Song" was purportedly about a feud with Epic Records about being unable to write a marketable love song (a clever retort, which turned into the song that launched her career). "King Of Anything", the first single off of Kaleidoscope Heart, is also said to be a big middle finger to label head Amanda Ghost, who tried to wrangle control of her career. These little anecdotes and back stories add a bit of mystique to the record, even if they are all conjecture.
I'd assume many of the rumors are true...the sincerity of the whole thing really shines through. Sara Bareilles is a charming, funny person, and this quality really reverberates on every track. Thus she really hits a cohesive stride on Kaleidoscope Heart. The songs are individually crisp, catchy, and fun, the way good pop music should taste and feel, but they read in succession, like a story. The opening track might seem like a throwaway to most looking for singles, but it is the most telling moment of the entire record... Sara's voice, layered over itself in harmonies akin to the infamous (and often ripped off) Imogen Heap song, discussing what the entire record is all about (or so I guess)... releasing inspiration from deep within her chest. It's so hard to dismiss something so obviously sincere: Sara possesses the Kaleidoscope Heart and she is trying to show us all her different colors.
That's the beauty of Sara's lyricism, it's easy and intelligent, thoughtful and carefree all at once. Sara really struggled to get to the second record (she told us about her long downtime in writing), but it sounds so effortless through and through, it's kind of magical. Every song has something to offer, whether it's a catchy hook, or showcasing Sara's saccharine voice, it's 100% enjoyment front to back.
Adding to the mix are the impeccable production values. Major artists almost always sound good, but Kaleidoscope Heart recalls some of the larger than life production that makes a record sound real (and is often missing in low budget stuff). Listen to a bunch of lo-fi bedroom records and you forget how awe-inspiring a huge chorus can be, while hitting the high note, with full instrumentations booming like the sun in a cloudless sky. It's always compelling.
The best part: it never feels fake or forced. Sure it all boils down to the critically dreaded term "pop music", but it might be the most engaging fifty minutes of it you'll hear all year. Whether she's spinning a slow piano-driven ballad, an upbeat jam, or a straightforward chorus driven pop tune, it all sounds like Sara is sitting next to us, telling us a story. We're listening, and we like what we hear. -joe puglisi
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