It’s so rare that an artist will release a consistent slew of amazing albums. Often times, they’ll put out a great first and second album, then get experimental and watch their fame ebb as quickly as it rose. Sarah Slean is a rare exception to this rule. Since Night Bugs, her first “big” album, Slean released Day One in 2004, and in 2008 she came out with the incredibly beautiful The Baroness. Since then, she released a couple of B-sides (The Baroness Redecorates, Beauty Lives), and now Slean is back with Land & Sea, her most musically daring album to date.
Slean is known for both her upbeat melodies which make you want to dance and sing along, and also for her toned-down, beautiful ballads that can bring tears to your eyes. Her new album incorporates these two contrasting genres perfectly. Land, part one of the double-disc incorporates more of a rock/pop element similar to what you might hear on Day One. The moment you press play and hear the first few bars of “Life,” right away you know Land will exceed all expectations. The next few tracks, “The Day We Saved the World” and the first single “Set it Free” both encompass Slean’s incredible songwriting ability. All the way through, with tracks like “Everybody’s on TV,” “New Pair of Eyes” and “Girls Hating Girls,” Land is full of songs you will want to listen to again and again. The final track, “Society Song” closes Land on a high note with Sarah on the piano and her band backing her up with hand claps and a sing-along in the chorus.
And then there’s Sea.
This is where Slean really shines. Sea’s beautiful string arrangements are a complete contrast to anything you’ll hear on Land. The way the lyrics, melodies and harmonies work together in “Cosmic Ballet,” the first track off Sea, solidifies Slean as a master of composition. But it doesn’t end there. With tracks like “The Devil and the Dove,” “Attention Archers” and “You’re not Alone,” combined with a couple of re-arranged tracks off Beauty Lives, Sea is a breathtaking incubus of musical grace and elegance.
It’s incredibly hard to compare Sarah Slean to any other artist. Some might say her sound combines some elements of Sarah McLachlan, Emm Gryner, Chantal Kreviazuk, Tori Amos and Feist, but even then, Slean’s music is in a category of its own.
Like its title suggests, Land & Sea is a living, breathing element, contradictory and harmonious all at once. Slean has a true talent at bringing words alive and painting images inside the mind, and this talent shines through more than ever on this latest album. Somehow, every album Sarah Slean records is greater and grander than the last, and Land & Sea is no exception. Whatever your musical taste though, Land & Sea does not disappoint. It is a true collection of the simplistic to the complex, a record you will want to listen to over and over again. 9/10
“Life” and “Cosmic Ballet.”
By Owen Nagels
You can follow Owen on Twitter @owennagels.