I don’t know about you, but not many names come to mind when I try to think of female artists from Australia. Natalie Imbruglia. The Minogue sisters. That’s pretty much it, at least in terms of who American listeners might have heard of.
In indie circles, Sarah Blasko’s name might have popped up here and there, but even though she is supremely popular in her native country, in the USA it is a different story. Female singers usually struggle to garner attention as solo artists, contrasting those who front bands. Just ask Feist or Regina Spektor (who herself needed a radio-friendly pop tune to break through to popular success in the mainstream).
After a highly successful debut album, The Overture & The Underscore in Australia, Sarah’s follow-up What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have might give her the exposure that will make her more known in the states. But of course, every critic and every fan loves to invent new subgenres whenever they can. For Sarah, she has been included in the very unoriginal and not-so-accurate “indietronica” genre. Oddly, when you wikipedia it, you get redirected to an electronic dance music page. That could give you a hint as to the credibility of this indie subgenre.
While Sarah can’t be heard as being anything but indie, I’m not sure electronica could be another description (if I’m using more traditional contemporary electronic bands like The Postal Service or even Orbital) of her music. The closest song that even remotely resembles electronic would be the album’s opening track “For You” and that’s just because of the noticeable use of synthesizers.
That egregious labeling aside, it’s interesting to note the many influences in Sarah’s music. These range from PJ Harvey (“The Garden’s End”) to The Cardigans (“Amazing Things”) to Cat Power (“The Woman By The Wall”) to Bjork (“Explain”). It’s also eerie to think that she could sing with so much confidence so early in her solo career. With “Hammer” Sarah sings with such conviction that you’d swear a pre-“Fidelity” Spektor sang it.
Sea is a very consistent album that surprisingly doesn’t deviate from an active sound and voice. Notice that there isn’t a single passive song, even with regards to the ballads. There is always a sense of control that Sarah manages to convey. In the gospel-like ballad “Showstopper,” Sarah keeps her focus in the midst of a break-up (“I feel the trial, it’s mine / I burn in this ire / All this pride, bid goodbye / Only matchwood”). The most enjoyable track is the very danceably hip and upbeat “Planet New Year” but even then it includes a feminist voice, one who knows what she wants and is in control.
From the title’s name, you can’t help but think that the sea is a metaphor for women. That what the women want, the women will have. And for 99% of all men (this writer being one part of the 99%), that if women want them, I don’t think any man would or could refuse.