Praised by critics worldwide and showered with accolades, including a mildly controversial ARIA award for ‘Best Pop Release’ (controversial only because some industry folk felt that the category was demeaning), Sarah Blasko is quickly becoming a national treasure in her native Australia. Following on from her debut The Overture & The Underscore and 2006′s simply breathtaking What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have, Blasko has crafted an elegant third record – her first to be entirely self-penned – that could well see her join the ranks of Paul Kelly, Daniel Johns and Sia Furler as one of Australia’s greatest songwriters.
Opener ‘Down On Love’ is at once familiar, yet unlike anything Blasko has put to record before; with its swirling piano and vocal melodies, it sounds like something out of a musical (special editions of the album come with a bonus covers EP of songs from films like ‘Annie Hall’ and ’Xanadu’) and deftly introduces the primary theme of the album: the painful process of moving on from a meaningful relationship.
The stunning single ‘All I Want’ has been a radio favourite in Australia since its release in May, hardly surprising as, once again, the song exudes a familiar warmth. It is here that the presence of producer Bjorn Yttling is first felt as the Swedish maestro gives the track a filmic sense of grandeur. Ultimately though, it’s Blasko’s deceptively simple lyrics that make this one of the best in her increasingly impressive catalogue. You can hear the genuine heartache in the chorus when she swoons, “All I want / is to one day come to know myself”. It’s a sentiment that anyone can relate to, brokenhearted or not.
The arrangements throughout the album are relatively simple but expertly layered; the strength of the songs is such that to clutter them with sonic tweaks would undermine them. When extras are used, it is sparingly and to great effect. ‘Hold On My Heart’ is the album’s first real pop moment, jumping along nicely with the help of some jaunty keys and curious percussive sound effects, and it’s a testament to Blasko’s skills as a songwriter that it works just as well as the album’s more sombre inclusions.
The percussive exploration continues on the subtly emphatic ‘We Won’t Run’, which also benefits from a lovely string arrangement that never irks or becomes overbearing, and on ‘No Turning Back’, whose percussive build makes it an unusual choice for the album’s second single, but again showcases Blasko’s versatility and the effectiveness of her partnership with Yttling.
‘Is My Baby Yours?’ is the track that most closely resembles Blasko’s earlier work, and perhaps for that reason feels a little misplaced here. Still, when she demands the titular question repetitively in the chorus, Blasko is at the height of her expressive vocal powers; the guitar work from Thomas Tjarnkvist and, surprisingly, Blasko herself is also impressive. The broody, epic ‘Sleeper Awake’ is more convincing with lines such as “Use your hands / you know you love to get them dirty” and a delicious sense of tension.
The album’s final third finds Blasko toning things down a little, but she never once loses sight of her aims. The atmospheric ‘Lost & Defeated’ is followed by the playful, joyous ‘Over & Over’, which neatly references Talking Heads’ 1985 hit ‘Road To Nowhere’. The lush arrangements of ‘I Never Knew’ make it an instantly memorable ballad, but it’s on the album’s stripped-down closer ‘Night & Day’ that Blasko is at her most wrenching, singing of “bitter nights and broken days” over a haunting array of violins and violas.
It’s been a promising year for Australian female artists thus far, but perhaps no album has the potential to capture the world’s attention quite like As Day Follows Night. Blasko has taken a chance in working with Yttling, a man she barely knew and who had no prior knowledge of her work, but fortunately for her (and us) the pairing is a match made in heaven. The heartbreaking lyrics and emotive voice are still there, but what’s more exciting is that her music is still evolving and maturing. For Blasko, the growth possibilities are seemingly endless.
[Dew Process; available on import only]