Sarah Blasko: Eternal Return

Melancholy songstress Sarah Blasko turns her frown upside down, but it may not be to everyone's taste.

- Sarah Blasko’s fifth studio album Eternal Return is something quite different to anything we’ve heard from the singer before. Blasko’s voice has got to be one of Australia’s national treasures. She’s always had such a unique, captivating sound that has resulted in many awards and a strong fan base all over the country. It’s these very fans who will probably be quite divided over this album. Blasko’s signature vocals are still present, but there’s a definitively different vibe. In interviews Blasko herself has attributed this noticeable change to the different stage her own life has reached, and a personal desire to write a really strong pop record. The result of all this is a nostalgic, synthesiser-based sound with lyrics about being happy in love, a noticeable departure from the sweeping orchestral arrangements, guitars and tangible sense of heartbreak of previous records.

There are still many interesting moments on this record, but after so many years of listening to Blasko, you can’t help be feel like you know what an album from her ‘should’ be like, and the record is a little dull in comparison to its own ideal version. If that whole idea is a little too meta for you, just listen to this record and you’ll know what I mean.

Right from opener I Am Ready the change in character is immediately obvious, as marching band percussion sounds and big sweeping synths put a modern twist on '80's new wave. I Wanna Be Your Man has a steady drum beat with more synths and an underlying sense of optimism woven into the lyrical narrative. Blasko cleverly trails off on the lyric, “I wanna be your…” leaving the ending open to interpretation. Better With You brings some strings to the new wave party, lending a quirky theatrical feel to the song, which builds throughout though never quite amounts to a satisfying pay off in the chorus or bridge sections.

I’d Be Lost has a great melody, which is probably the most reminiscent of early Blasko, though again with the new wave / disco vibe heavily layered over the top. Maybe This Time is another strong track that sort of cherry-picks from all the best bits of this new direction, combined with some of the familiar lyrical structures of earlier hits. Beyond takes the '80's throwbacks a little too far and comes off rather cheesy with lyrics like “be your stars and sun align,” and “sailing past the emotions of a known and troubled mind.” Compared to the veiled metaphors, complex subtext and poetic structure of Blasko’s previous lyrics, tracks like this come off as a little disingenuous. Luxurious takes a welcome step back from the overbearing synths, and lends some depth to the record with a slow, downbeat piano ballad.

There are plenty of people out there writing decent pop songs about being happy and in love, and Blasko now joins those ranks, but in doing so has left the world of sad, soulful songs about heartbreak and loss behind, and if it has to be one or the other, Blasko’s masterclasses in all things melancholy will be sorely missed. Each of her albums have been innovative and captivating for different reasons and Eternal Return finds such moments when it’s not trying to be too overt. It’s the soft, contemplative moments in between that will make you want to listen to the record again.  

- Clare Armstrong.

 

Album Details

Album Title: Eternal Return
Artist: Sarah Blasko
Record Label: (EMI)