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The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Blessed, she names the unrest that fills her album with bright, brilliant energy. Sara Bareilles’ fourth studio album made big waves in 2013, notably with its crowd-pleasing single “Brave.” Once again, demonstrating Bareilles’ triple threat of being able to write, sing, and accompany herself on music that crowns the heart and soul.

The Blessed Unrest is a love song for the city, specifically New York. She plays into the corners of the city with “Manhattan,” and we chase dawn creeping over skyscrapers in “Chasing the Sun.” Like urban life, her album is grounded, gritty, starstruck, and carries a grey and black edge. It’s real, for sure, and not without an element of bittersweet magic, that comes straight from the buildings and blossoms of Central Park.

Bareilles is brave herself, experimenting in songs with a new, neon sound. The echoing “Satellite Call,” kicking “Eden,” and distant, sweet “Islands” suggest a throwback, exciting ’80s influence. But even when she deviates from her norm, Bareilles maintains a taste for the kind of sweet, soft rock that makes you want to put on your headphones and melt.

There’s ample soul in Bareilles’ album, reflecting her unique ability to put raw, complicated feelings into words. “Hercules” is about becoming your own hero, a promise Bareilles lives up to in the free-spirited “Little Black Dress.” “I Choose You” is the album’s wedding-ready ballad, a self-described ‘lifelong love letter' to the person you choose to love, which, like “Brave,” fuels Bareilles’ advocacy for freely living and loving. Another jewel, “1000 Times” is the confession of a broken heart.

We end with “December,” which has the sad sweetness of the end of the year, and all of its hope. Bareilles creates a tracklist of songs that are complete and personal, and the album feels like a gift from someone you know. It’s also the end of something great, wise and full of heart. So praise the blessed unrest.

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