Kaleidoscope Heart is certainly lovable, showcasing the down-to-earth emotional side of the 30-year-old songbird Sara Bareilles in a set that loosely chronicles a break-up while firmly arguing for the kind of practical self-reliance many young women see as the feminist ideal in this post-liberationist age. Though Bareilles takes a semi-confessional approach, her warm alto and hard-working piano arrangements strongly suggest conversation; she incorporates the stops and starts of casual speech into her singing, and she has a way of deepening simple, almost clichéd language just by changing the weight of a syllable.
Whether speaking truth to a boor in the hit “King of Anything” or revving up her own slightly damaged engines in “Bluebird” or “Uncharted,” Bareilles keeps her mood hopeful, structuring her songs as well-paced ascents toward choruses meant to be sung with abandon. “Wish I were pretty, wish I were brave,” she murmurs at the start of “Let the Rain.” Her voice rises in intervals, and by the time the chorus takes over, the key and the mood has changed.
This utopian aspect of Bareilles’s music comes through in the arrangements on Kaleidoscope Heart, which swaps out the light rhythm and blues influence of Bareilles’s previous efforts for a sound reminiscent of Glee.
The singer-songwriter’s background in university show choirs serves her well here, as she finds strength in complex vocal arrangements and the sorts of dramatic set-ups that have reminded us, through Fox’s popular television show, that the very act of raising our voices can be a hugely liberating act. — Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times
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