The third solo album from Australian singer/songwriter Sarah Blasko marks a shift in her sound; straightforward, cleaner and with a definite emphasis on strong vocals.
Gone are the keyboards used throughout previous album 'What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have'; they have been replaced by a much more uncomplicated blues-influenced sound.
Opener 'Down On Love' is a piano-led track, with Blasko commenting "'I believe in miracles, but a miracle you can't control" indicating this could be a personal ode to her life. It's good to hear Blasko's voice much more stripped back than previous outings; nothing is lost from this change, instead it's good to know her voice stands up to limited musical accompaniment.
Blasko sets up her stall from the outset in 'All I Want', declaring "I don't want another lover, so don't keep holding out your hands/there's no room beside me, I'm not looking for romance." the track is more typical of Blasko's past, ticking both the haunting and dark boxes, but her vocals manage to remain sweet; apparently not something that's easily achievable if you were to look at current charts. This is a track where strings play their part, but really, as with the remainder of the album, it's all about Blasko's vocals.
The blues influence really kicks in with the arrival of 'Bird On A Wire'; conjuring up images of finger-clicking and smokey basement clubs. The difference in Blasko's sound is remarkable and the decision to alter her musical direction has definitely paid off.
From there, Blasko ventures into more upbeat territory, with 'Hold On My Heart'; it's introduction is more than reminiscent of certain tracks by Regina Spektor and Blasko's vocals hold up well to this challenge.
By seemingly banishing electric instruments throughout, when Blasko chooses to use a piano, particularly as harshly as she does in 'Lost and Defeated', you continue to notice how much emphasis has been placed on Blasko's vocals throughout the remainder of the album. It takes a lot of confidence to do this successfully, but Blasko seems to have that particular attribute in droves.
One of the lightest moments in this surprisingly haunting album is 'Over and Over'; the arrival of a glockenspiel - everybody's favourite charming instrument - and Blasko's usual self-assured vocals make this one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.
Potentially her most captivating effort since going solo, this album has a number of highs that are definitely on a par with her previous records. For those who've followed Blasko since she went solo in 2002, this album might be a bit of a surprise, but surely won't leave them disappointed.