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Sarah Slean – “The Baroness Redecorates” Review

Following on from The Baroness, an album which was possibly the “safest” album Sarah has done to date, Sarah Slean returned at the end of 2008 with an EP entitled “The Baroness Redecorates” which seems to be a compilation of b-sides, out-takes and string arrangements.

It opens with “Parasol” which was the track released for download if you pre-ordered the original album. This has an old Sarah style about it. It really rocks out in the chorus and has that whimsical cabaret feel about it which so many of Sarah’s previous songs have had too. “Lonely Side of the Moon” is an altogether darker edge to it with its waltzing string background marching behind smooth piano playing. Sarah’s vocals are aching beautiful too. This song trumps most of The Baroness hands down.

“Modern Man I and II” begins with a minute string arrangement that is both technical and buoyant before a piano and string led ballad slowly unveils which harks back to her Blue Parade era for me. It’s beautiful and understated. “Compatriots” is a much more speedy affair with swash buckling waltz beat which once again features some excellent piano and string work. It reminds me of an acoustic version of “The Score” for some reason but doesn’t sound anything like it.

“The Rose”  is a serene ballad that still has pace but really see’s Sarah’s high vocals shine through with some lovely pitch shifts and note changes. “Hear Me Out” has a great string riff to open with and the damp chords used and the atmosphere of the track really hit you. It’s an immediate favourite although the chorus is slightly more upbeat than the verses which is interesting. I could see this song working really well with a band rendition. Finally “The Disarm Suite” is a six minute string piece written by Sarah which is quite epic and film-esque. It would work great as a standalone piece or to a visual display. It’s more for fans of orchestral symphonies but everyone should be able to see something good in it.

This selection of songs have the edge over half of “The Baroness” for me. “The Baroness” works well as a single piece of work as its production keeps everything tightly woven together. However in doing that it took a fair chunk of character away with it. “The Baroness Redecorates” is more bare bones and less safe with its production and overall feel. Sarah’s fans should immediately pick this up, especially if you’re a fan of her earlier albums. A definite contender for best b-side compilation of the last few years.

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