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Sarah Blasko — As Day Follows Night [Special Ed.][2009]

Sarah Blasko — As Day Follows Night [Special Ed.][July 10, 2009]

AUS Flag Sarah Blasko — As Day Follows Night [2cd, Special Edition.]
   “The album is a triumph. It is one of those breakthrough records that only when it arrives and you hear the progression in spirit and song do you see the potential that was always there, just waiting for the artist to make the jump. And Blasko has made a leap.” — Robert Forster, The Monthly
Birth name: Sarah Elizabeth Blasko
Born: September 23, 1976
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Album release: July 10, 2009
Recorded: Atlantic Studios & Decibel Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, February — March 2009
Record Label: Dew Process (AU), Dramatico Entertainment (UK/EU)
Duration:     47:21 + 16:11 => 63:32
01. Down On Love       2:30
02. All I Want       3:53
03. Bird On A Wire       3:14
04. Hold On My Heart       4:03
05. We Won't Run       4:00
06. Is My Baby Yours?       3:37
07. Sleeper Awake       6:18
08. No Turning Back       4:02
09. Lost & Defeated       3:34
10. Over & Over       3:59
11. I Never Knew       4:11
12. Night & Day       4:00
01. Seems Like Old Times (from Annie Hall)       2:29
02. Something Good (from The Sound of Music)       3:19
03. Maybe This Time (from Cabaret)       3:21
04. Out Here On My Own (from Fame)       3:18
05. Xanadu (from Xanadu)       3:45
   All songs by Sarah Blasko, unless otherwise noted.
   A special edition was also released, consisting of the album, a bonus disc of Sarah performing some of her favourite songs from movies, and four magic ink cards with paintbrushes.
   The album was nominated for the ARIA Album of the Year Award in 2009  and won the ARIA for Best Female Artist. On 4 December 2009, she was awarded Triple J's J Award for Australian Album of the Year. In October 2010, it was listed at No. 19 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
   "We Won't Run" and "All I Want" made the Triple J Hottest 100 list for 2009, coming in at 28 and 29 respectively. "We Won't Run" also appeared in the pilot episodes of The CW shows, The Secret Circle and Ringer
   "Over and Over" contains a few lines of the Talking Heads song "Road To Nowhere".
   Sydney native Sarah Blasko is an award-winning, platinum-selling Australian singer-songwriter whose 'As Day Follows Night' is an acoustic collection of twelve songs inspired by heartbreak. Recorded in Stockholm and produced by Björn Yttling with a quieter, more intimately focused version of the re-tweaked folk familiar to listeners of Yttling's group Peter Björn and John, the album, Blasko's third, is her first to receive wide release and exposure throughout Europe and the U.S.
   “I wanted pure, elemental songs played on acoustic instruments,” Blasko says of her intentions for 'As Day Follows Night', which was voted Album of the Year by Australia's biggest national radio network, and nominated for five Australian music-industry ARIA awards. I didn't want to hide behind electronics or effects. I knew from the start that I wanted all the instruments to have air in them. I wanted lots of strings and piano, double bass, jazz drums not a lot of guitar. Even though I hadn't played much piano in the past, for example, it's always been my favorite instrument. I found the loneliness of its sound inspiring. It suited my state of mind at the time.”
   The creative partnership with Yttling arose from Blasko's affection for Peter Björn and John's music, as well as for productions the Swede had done for other recording artists. "His music has some old-fashioned elements," Blasko says, "but also a freshness that feels modern and embraces all sorts of sounds." They recorded the album together over the course of ten days. Blasko mentions as well her regard for the classic work of Carole King, Nina Simone, and Leonard Cohen. Blasko believes that, despite significant differences of capacity and style, the work of these artists argues for the wisdom of directness.
   "When I was writing the album I did have a sense that I wanted the result to be something that was an accessible piece of work. In the past when I've written, things have been a bit more obscured. But this time I took the approach of wanting to write songs that were inspired by more classic kinds of pop-song structures. Previously I shied away from making this kind of album. Not this time. It actually felt as though I were starting from scratch."
   Britain's 'Guardian' calls 'All I Want’ (the first track sent out in the US) — a cascading ballad in which a troubled woman seemingly stuns herself with repeated confessions of her own puzzling nature — "beautifully unadorned." Other critics praise Blasko's flowing soprano, which is energized by the occasional "sullen undertone" and enlivened by an "ever so slightly cracked" quality. The net effect is that of velvet poise not unaffected by emotional barbed wire.
   While working on the songs for 'As Day Follows Night', Blasko also had been commissioned to write incidental music for, as well as perform in, a production of 'Hamlet' by Sydney's Bell Shakespeare Company. According to Blasko, the 'Hamlet' assignment, given the nature and scale of writing music for the theater, reconfirmed her acoustic goals; ordinary pop operations seemed inappropriate in that setting as, ultimately, they came to seem invalid for her third album. The two tasks ultimately merged for Blasko. "Being involved in 'Hamlet' at the same time I was writing the album was a big influence," she says. "When I wasn't performing, I would sit backstage at the piano and write my own songs. The piano, for example, grew to seem as apropos for me as it did for 'Hamlet'."
   'As Day Follows Night' is the current cumulation of the music of Sarah Blasko — who as a child sang with her mother in Pentecostal church, later fronted bands while studying for a degree in English literature, and whose solo career ignited at home when 'The Overture & the Underscore', her 2004 debut, went platinum. "I actively chose to make these songs positive," she says of the lapidary dozen that comprise 'As Day Follows Night'. "I didn't want to wallow in carols of depression. That's why I wrote the introduction to the album, the song 'Down on Love.' I love that idea of having a really clear introduction that is, in a sense, a preface. You're just creating a mood that draws people into the album. The subject matter concerns all of a sudden opening up and deciding to see the good in things. That sentiment is crucial to the album as a whole. Then, ending with 'Night & Day', that delineates the opposing sides that we all have, in choosing the positive over the negative."
   Blasko laughs softly. "That may sound like self-help, but I don't really mean it that way."
   With 'As Day Follows Night', Blasko and Yttling have created frank songs that, time and again, elegantly exceed even the most effective version of that.
   "For her third album, the eclectic Australian Sarah Blasko took her sound even further than before. Previous records centered somewhat more around the guitar, while As Day Follows Night starts off on a more piano-driven path. The result is a surprising one. Blasko's voice is at once fragile and careful, holding a lot of breathy similarities to contemporary female singer/songwriters (including Feist and Sara Bareilles), while the music incorporates many contemporary touches from the meeting points between electronica and folk. Though there are pieces of tinkling, lilting modernity throughout, there are also massive throwbacks to sounds that, in today's world, are seemingly lost and gone."
In french:
   L'album, très agréable à l'écoute, qui allait faire connaître Sarah Blasko bien au delà de l'Australie où elle est très populaire. Cette "édition spéciale" propose un second CD de 5 reprises de thèmes musicaux de films.
Website: http://www.sarahblasko.com/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/sarahblasko
Agent: (AUS) ARTIST VOICE/ Dave Batty / / (UK/EUROPE) PITCH & SMITH / Kalle Lundgren /
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahblasko
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahBlasko
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahblaskomusic
‘As Day Follows Night’
   “As Day Follows Night is a startling work, redrawing the bounaries of Blasko’s music, but is also something of a revelation from an already much-value artist.” — Sydney Morning Herald
   “…As Day Follows Night has the kind of depth that reveals itself and rewards with each spin.” — The Music Network
   “…great music, evocative lyrics and, most of all, a stunning vocal performance. Here, Blasko has cultivated a most beautiful specimen.” —  West Australian
   “All 12 songs are exquisite. An album of the year contender.” — Weekend Australian
   “The album is a triumph. It is one of those breakthrough records that only when it arrives and you hear the progression in spirit and song do you see the potential that was always there, just waiting for the artist to make the jump. And Blasko has made a leap.” — Robert Forster, The Monthly
   “Sarah Blasko’s third solo album is a perfectly pitched affair …intimate yet poppy, delicate yet emotionally full-blooded” “A gentle beauty.” — The Daily Telegraph, UK
   “As Day Follows Night arrives without too much fanfare but it deserves plenty.” — Mail On Sunday, UK
   “With an array of honest, expressive and awe-inspiring tracks, Sarah Blasko’s third album portrays sadness in the most uplifting and beautiful of ways. Minimal and organic arrangements let the Sydney singer’s voice soar. With seven ARIA Award nominations to her name, this is the first time Blasko has penned an entire album and the results are simply stunning.”
   “Now relocated to London to launch her career in Europe, Blasko undeniably has the right album to go with. Her voice, pure and understated, is brought to life by the spartan and sensitive production of Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn And John fame).
   Centrepiece of the album is undoubtedly ‘All I Want’, a poetic piece of self-analysis, a lonely melody with a Morricone feel. It sets the reflective and self-critical tone of almost all the songs from the pop of ‘We Won’t Run’ to the jazz-club cool of ‘Bird On A Wire’, cut from the same musical cloth as Fever. There are subtle surprises too: ‘No Turning Back’ stomps along like something out of a Kurt Weill score, while ‘Over And Over’ ends in a neat conceit, with the interpolation of a snippet of Talking Heads’ ‘Road To Nowhere’. In total, it brings to mind Portishead without the beats, or the original, pop-star Bjork.” — David Buckley — MOJO, UK
   “Australian Sarah Blasko’s third solo album is a perfectly pitched affair, balancing introspection with wry eccentricity to conjure up something intimate yet poppy, delicate yet emotionally full-blooded. Produced in Stockholm by Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn & John), the understated arrangements are brightened by surprising splashes of musical colour. A gentle beauty.” — Neil McCormack — THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, UK
   “Sarah Blasko was voted the female artist of 2009 in Australia and with this, her third album, she gets her first international release. As Day Follows Night’s stylish, slightly jazzy pop, produced by Bjorn Yttling of cool Swedish band Peter, Bjorn And John, is impressive enough to make you wonder what else they’ve got in the Southern Hemisphere that they’re not telling us about.
   “Pure elemental songs played on acoustic instruments,” is how Sarah Blasko describes As Day Follows Night. It’s a target many aim at but she hits it dead-centre.
Charisma is all that marks out a compelling singer-songwriter from the many average ones and Blasko has a subtle abundance. She has the kind of voice usually described as bewitching but she can be unaffected too, and is at home at the centre of Yttling’s spacious arrangements, which set bare piano and guitar inside a cavern of percussion and strings.
   There’s drama everywhere, particularly in the smoky ‘Bird On A Wire’ and the spaghetti-Western stylings of ‘All I Want’. ‘Down On Love’ brings a music-box quality to a delicate lullaby of a tune that recalls Jeff Buckley’s version of hallelujah; ‘Over & Over’s’ marching drums see it transform gradually into Talking Heads’ ‘Road To Nowhere’.
   Tom Waits is the godfather of all such charmed, slyly experimental music, but equally there’s nothing here that would scare any fan of Norah Jones or Madeleine Peyroux.
   As Day Follows Night arrives here without too much fanfare but it deserves plenty. Remarkably appealing and thoroughly recommended.” — MAIL ON SUNDAY, UK
   She’s a restless soul, Sarah Blasko, three albums in her recording career done: one in Los Angeles, one in Auckland, and now her latest from Stockholm. Each has been shaped by its location. From  LA came the neat, crafted pop of her debut, The Overture & The Underscore (2004); from Auckland there was the nautically themed swing and drama of What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have (2006); and in Stockholm — well, she recorded in the same studio as ABBA, the Swedish affinity for jazz is noticeable in the upright bass and percussion, and there is the talent of producer Bjorn Yttling, which is the obvious reason why Blasko was tromping through the snow in February and March this year. Yttling is both a member and producer of Peter, Bjorn and John, a Swedish pop band most famous for their left-field worldwide hit ‘Young Folks’ in 2006, a song that, besides featuring a whistling solo, impressed with its stripped-back mixture of groove and unusual natural instrumentation. The engagement of Yttling is another smart move, in a career built on astute and brave musical decisions.
   At 32, the Sydney born and based Blasko finds herself in the enviable but also difficult position of sustaining a successful career in a shrinking album-sales market and a music scene that thrives on new faces and novelty. So far she has played it by instinct, with eye-catching album sleeves and clever videos, and generally conducted herself through the publicity and gimmick-driven maze of the music business with dignity and intelligence. As such she cuts a wilful and unusual figure, one who baffles those focused on the traditional short-term methods of career advancement, but her approach should ensure a long and satisfying career if she wishes to stay in music.    Alongside the quality and seriousness of her work, and perhaps linked to its unorthodoxy, is the pleasure of her media presence; especially her interviews, which go against the normal line of shamefaced promotion and blind hope that dominates the pop-culture space. Blasko squirms under ARIA nominations and is willing to admit or ponder mistakes in print; it is an endearing trait, showing someone who is both honest and in constant self-reflection, qualities that abound in As Day Follows Night.
   The album is a triumph. It is one of those breakthrough records that only when it arrives and you hear the progression in spirit and song you see the potential that was always there, just waiting for the artist to make the jump. And Blasko has made a leap.    This is the best group of songs she has ever put together, her voice has never sounded so good, and her lyrics are divine. It’s almost a shame that ‘All I Want’ doesn’t start the album — the slower curtain-opener ‘Down On Love’ fulfils the role, as tentative mood songs have done on all her albums- because the first flush of all these developments is held in this great single. The initial realisation is that the veil has dropped: gone is the crimped, at times awkwardly compressed style of lyric-writing in favour of the elegant and enigmatic statement of the obvious. So “Between love we make divide, navigate / Confusion translates what you can’t explain” from The Overture & The Underscore becomes “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”. This is not to imply that the change has been sudden or unexpected. What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have was a transitional record, already showing a loosening of the lyrical knot and a preference for an adventurous sound driven by natural instrumentation; As Day Follows Night drives all the changes.
   The first one may have come about while Blasko was writing the score for the Bell Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet in 2008. An admitted confidence-building exercise for her songwriting, it also allowed her time to compose on the backstage piano between nightly vocal performances. It is tempting to draw further conclusions from her long exposure to Shakespeare’s play. It the dithering, self-absorbed hero an influence on the hand-wringing, does-he-or-doesn’t-he-love-me central character of the album? Is “I’m finally mad, like a rush of blood the the head” in ‘Lost & Defeated’ a touch of Ophelia? And how far is Stockholm from Denmark, anyway? Nonetheless, for a songwriter preparing her first entirely self-composed set of songs for an all-important third album, Blasko has written a wonderfully melodic and diverse collection. Enter the producer Yttling, whom Blasko sought out, her admiration triggered as much perhaps by his production for the fine Scottish group Camera Obscura as by his work with his own band. Blasko and Yttling are a perfect match. He has fashioned a monster sound from the sparse ingredients of drums and bass and piano, building them big and full enough to carry many a verse and chorus with only Blasko’s vocal on top. The production adds much to this album; outside of her singing and songs, it is the start — a thoughtful, delightful, sonic field of sparse instrumentalisation that has been expertly recorded.
   The album’s 12 songs tell a story. On What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have, nautical motifs, involving ships, storms, vessels, oceans and tides, were explicit in the lyrics and at times lacked some subtlety as metaphors for love and its troubles. On As Day Follows Night, the album’s theme is far more skillfully embedded. Most of the songs revolve around a relationship involving three people. The narrator professes her love to a man who, it seems can’t leave another woman, despite her best efforts to cajole him to remain by her side. The woman is Day and the man is Night, and the album’s title alludes to their tangle. ‘All I Want’, with its magnificent stoicism, seems outside this circle of songs, but on every other number, fro the opening track, ‘Down On Love’, where a case for happiness is put forward (“When all you life you’ve waited for someone to understand / To wake you up and speak your name”), to the demands of ‘No Turning Back’ (“I’ve put my heart right on the line / Now it’s time my love, it’s time”), to the dawning of truth in ‘I Never Knew’ (“But I never knew it would hurt like this / To let someone go against my wishes”), the dance of euphoria, disillusionment, pride and pain charted. A resolution of sorts is found in ‘Night & Day’, the last song, where an early chorus of “Bitter night and broken day” blooms in the record’s final line to “Such a lovely night and a beautiful day”. If it sounds overdone, it’s not; the weave of night and day and all the meaning that can be drawn from these two words is strung very gracefully through the album’s tracks.
   But there is also a thrill-seeking giddiness to the album, as if to register that in the throes of uncertain love there are terrific highs to mix with the lows. Yttling’s production helps out, pouncing on rhythms and always up for fun with weird instrument choices and melody lines. And Blasko goes with it too, stoking up songs such as ‘We Won’t Run’ and ‘Hold On My Heart’ with big choruses that have a joy and a sense of abandonment that she has never achieved before. Leading the charge is her voice; recalling a sly 12-year-old one minute and Peggy Lee the next, it’s high in the mix and as stripped of the previous affectation as her lyrics. The mood is supported by the album’s recording approach, which gives the vocal performances a first-take trashiness that is backed by the live-in-the-studio feel of the musicianship. Songs don’t fade but rather wind down naturally, often with a lyrical denouement at the finish. The could have been a much heavier album but instead it skids and skates, glockenspiels ring, percussion knocks and cracks, and Blasko, while not at peace, seems strong enough to dispense herself such a cool and central wisdom as “Can’t please somebody, can’t please somebody else, until you’ve learned to look after yourself”.
   Love has never been an easy game on any of Blasko’s albums. There is real pain on As Day Follows Night and it is perhaps no coincidence that this is the first record of hers not to have the lyrics printed. Whether the kick of the heart was bigger this time, or whether she now has the power to transform it into greater art, is impossible to say.    It has inspired a remarkable set of songs and, being the artist that she is — and great artists search and travel for a place to nail their feelings- she found a collaborator in Stockholm to help her make a wonderful record. A classic, in fact. Give her the ARIA now. — Robert Forster

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