Sarah Slean: Land & Sea

Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Slean has long been a favorite of mine and I’m happy to say her ambitious new double album, Land & Sea, is her best work to date. The two-disc set is grand in scope and beautifully complex, yet one of the most irresistibly accessible collections I’ve ever heard. This magnificent new song cycle finds Sarah taking pop, folk, rock and classical to places they’ve never been before.

There’s more wisdom in the iris bud
than all our centuries of words
see as the flower opens
what is there to say?

The collection of songs on the first disc, Land, are pop-driven, but Sarah incorporated elements and instrumentation from several other genres to add strength and substance.

Despite its title and choral embellishments, “Amen” is somewhat of a love song…in the sense of longing to be accepted and loved just as you are. A standout track on the album, the melody is anchored by a down-tempo beat in the verses and soars with a timeless pop chorus.

The sprawling piano melody “I Am a Light” rises and falls with the gentle waves of Sarah’s voice.

“The Day We Saved the World” and “Set It Free” make for a buoyant, inspirational pairing, while “Everybody’s on TV,” “Girls Hating Girls” and “Society Song” take clever jabs at the vapid and backbiting nature of the modern era.

“Society Song” is a supercatchy pop number carried by Gospel-influenced handclap percussion.

The second disc, Sea, is a much softer, somewhat somber affair. The influence of Sarah’s classical training, past collaborations with various composers and affinity for poetry, symphonies and Broadway musicals are all evident in the lovely orchestral arrangements of the songs. I was impressed to read Sarah did most of the string arrangements on herself.

The cinematic instrumental intro to “Cosmic Ballet” is especially beautiful.

The haunting, gorgeous “Napoleon” and the sweet melancholia of “Attention Archers” are the stand outs on Sea.

The lyrics of the delicate ballads “The One True Love” and “The Right Words,” which gives Sea its title, are poetic and moving.

Sarah Slean’s Land & Sea is sure to be on my best of the year list come December.

Sarah Slean – Amen by muruch *

*100% legal Soundcloud stream, uploaded w/ permission of artist’s PR rep

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Land & Sea - Sarah Slean

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Sarah Slean Official Site

Contest: Win Joshua Bell’s New CD!

Contest Closed

Muruch is giving away Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends, which features collaborations with Regina Spektor, Sting, Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Tiempo Libre, and many more. See contest details below.

The Prize:

One U.S. winner will receive:
1 copy of Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends.

The Rules:

Comment to this entry with “Joshua Bell” and your email address. All new comments are moderated to avoid spam (which is why you must include the name of the artist in your comment), so it may take a day for your comment to appear if you haven’t commented on Muruch before.

Note: This contest is only open to U.S. residents, and all contestants must enter with a valid email address and the name of the artist in order to qualify. The winner of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name and postal address for shipping purposes.

The Deadline:

The contest will end on Friday, October 30th. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email.

Go now go! And tell others.

Album Review

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Muse: The Resistance

British rock trio Muse have finally unchained themselves from those pesky Radiohead comparisons with their brilliant new album The Resistance, though they’re sure to be likened to Queen now. Integrating classical and opera music into their theatrical electro-rock sound, Muse have created one of the most exciting song cycles I’ve ever heard.

“Uprising,” which is the album’s first single, opens with an energetic, clap-happy glam rock shake. The album’s title track emerges from whispery synths into soaring stadium rock punched up with Styx-like vocal bursts, while “Undisclosed Desires” slides a darker undercurrent into retro ’80s synth-pop.

Singer-songwriter Matthew Bellamy brings new meaning to the phrase “orchestral arrangement” with the astounding Orwellian epic “United States of Eurasia (+ Collateral Damage).” A quiet start first explodes into Bellamy’s signature wail then drops into a dramatic, almost Middle Eastern rock instrumental. A full fledged rock opera of vocals soon follows before it all melts into Chopin’s “Nocturne in E Flat Major.” The entire piece is breathtaking and Bellamy has a career in classical waiting if he ever tires of rock.

“Guiding Light” recalls the prominent beat of “Vienna” by Ultravox, but the quaking guitar rock of “Unnatural Selection” and “MK Ultra” is purely of the modern age. “I Belong To You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)” is mostly a catchy pop-rock ditty, but Bellamy again experiments with genre-bending toward the end by crooning the aria from the opera Samson and Delilah.

The album ends with the three-part symphony “Exogenesis” which often sounds more like an eerie movie score than an orchestral work. Bellamy’s haunting keens blend with searing guitar riffs all wrapped with atmospheric strings in “Part 1 (Overture).” Melodic piano bookends “Part 2 (Cross-Pollination)”, but the center of the song is more bombastic arena rock. Finally, “Part 3 (Redemption)” gently closes the album with a somber, pretty piano melody not unlike Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” but with Muse’s trademark rock sound firmly planted inside.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples of each track at the links below.

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Muse - The Resistance

Muse Official Site
Muse MySpace