Two time ARIA award winner, Sarah Blasko, is back with her greatly anticipated fourth studio album, I Awake. This self-produced album sees a darker side of Blasko’s creative mind. It almost feels like there is no emotion edited, or augmented in any way on this album, it’s just pure and honest songwriting.
If you haven’t fallen in love with Blasko’s previous works (The Overture & The Underscore, What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have, As Day Follows Night, Seeker Lover Keeper) then you’ve been a space cadet for the last decade. Her works have always been captivating, and with this new album, we are reminded that Blasko is not afraid to push her creative boundaries.
For her fourth album, Blasko chose to have the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra to play for the record. The album’s first song (also the first single) is I Awake, a strong track that involves intense tribal-like drumming, the sounds of an emotionally-charged symphony, and Blasko’s unmissable vocals. In the track, she talks about, ‘going out to make a change’, it might be a change in her own personal life, but in this album, we see a change in Blasko’s producing and songwriting skills.
One of the things I’m taking a liking to with this album is some of the more sultry tracks, Bury This, God-Fearing and All of Me. They all embody an underground jazz-club kind of feel, with subtle drum-beats and a sexy, simplistic bass line that makes you want to sway. In Bury This (a sexy tango-like number) right around the 2:25 mark, Blasko utilises her strings section and places a great string build-up into the chorus, sounding somewhat operatic.
Her songwriting on this album has matured. Themes of self-contemplation, looking to the future, and of course the ins-and-outs of relationships are included in this album. In An Arrow (track no. 2) an emotion-filled song, her lyrics are self-contemplative and raw, ‘I was just like an arrow, heading straight for a destiny’.
Tracks No. 10 and 11 (Cast the Net and An Oyster, A Pearl) take on a less darker theme, but are still emotionally open, which balances out the album perfectly. The songs are less grand and more stripped-back. An Oyster, A Pearl, is the only track that features just Blasko’s voice and a piano accompaniment, giving contrast and shifting the focus more on the lyrics and her unique voice.
Some of Blasko’s past works have been beautifully strange or awesomely quirky. Fool and Not Yet (last song) are the tracks that make you forget everything else, and just listen. I’ve got to commend Blasko’s role of producer on this album. She’s successfully given each song a memorable moment of its own. Each song has a moment where it’s able to get some sort of reaction out of the listener. Especially in Not Yet, the last song, she takes advantage of the orchestra and creates an epic-sounding piece, and Blasko sure does save the best ’til last. Little by little, there’s a new layer of sound added, and a new section of instruments enter. It builds and builds until this great block of intense emotionally charged sounds encompasses you.
Blasko is undeniably a brilliant songwriter, and this is evident in I Awake, and in her previous works too. But I think that this album shows just how brilliant she is as a producer as well.