Sarah Slean – Land & Sea

Sarah Slean - Land & Sea

Album cover for Sarah Slean's Land & Sea

Sarah Slean‘s best asset to her music is the imagery created by her lyrics coupled with the delicate melodies to make the perfect mood that can result in a time warp connecting the present day to the days of poets, writers and visionaries of the past. All from her first EP Universe in 1998 up until her most recent EP The Baroness Redecorates (2008), which contains probably one of the best examples of her expressive and imaginary writing on Parasol.

Her new record Land & Sea is a double album that takes two approaches. The Land portion contains the songs most like those familiar pop songs that comprise most of her previous records while the Sea half is the result of her lesser known but widely explored side, her classical side. Sarah has always invited aspects of classical elements onto her albums. From her Night Bugs (2002) instrumental Dark Room to the classical undertones that comprise much of her first two records, as well as her involvement in arranging a 4-track instrumental classical set made available on iTunes earlier this year. Instead of choosing one path, Sarah chooses two. And that’s a very Sarah Slean move to make.

The strengths of the Land half lay in the melodies. Strong choruses make up the 9 tracks on this disc however the downside is that the imagery created by the lyrics are being masked. Where Sarah’s lyrics would normally poke out, they now seem reserved as the melody moves to the front and the writing is pushed to the backdrop. The dreamy, fantastical words are still here but are locked up.

Perhaps the key is with the Sea disc? Napolean might agree with references to princes, pirates and Napolean himself: “another tyrant is born.” These songs are much more mellow than Land but musically fairly comparable to both The Baroness (2008) and its spin-off The Baroness Redecorates, the record in which Sarah stripped her quirky lyrical persona to reveal immense sadness and heartbreak but later returns to a fuller and stronger form. On here, Sarah dives in to provide the scenery and mood presented by the words with swelling strings, thoughtful pianos and her soothing voice. Particularly on The Devil & The Dove, the song that lays out the two options that are available, the devil or the dove, the path growing in the distance or the path now overgrown. Why not take both? On the final track, My Eyes & Your Eyes, there’s an overwhelming sense of relief from the outside perspective with the lyrics in contrast to much of The Baroness, “this is almost too much beautiful/my eyes and your eyes closing/underneath the stars/and you kiss me, kiss me.”

Whether Land can even be considered a mis-step is in itself a stretch but Sea is the half that carries the strength on this ambitious collection by Sarah Slean. Let the sounds of Land win you over and save Sea for a period when you’re ready to be embraced. Go back to Land and focus on the songs beyond the catchy music before returning to the calm of Sea. Four stars

Disc 1:
1. Life
2. The Day We Saved The World
3. Set It Free
4. Everybody’s On TV
5. Amen
6. I Am The Light
7. New Pair Of Eyes
8. Girls Hating Girls
9. Society Song

Disc 2:
1. Cosmic Ballet
2. Everything By The Gallon
3. The Devil & The Dove
4. Napoleon
5. Attention Archers
6. You’re Not Alone
7. The One True Love
8. The Right Words
9. My Eyes & Your Eyes

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