Sydney songstress Sarah Blasko exudes a quiet strength on her exquisite fourth album, I Awake, self-produced and recorded in Sweden and Bulgaria. The potency comes from the honesty of her lyrics, whether confessing that she knew a romance was doomed from day one but played it out anyway (Illusory Light) or owning her own decision to move on (New Country). "I forgot I was strong," the 36-year-old sings on Fool, a relatively straight old-school torch song, whereas she needs no reminding of her worth on the defiant God-Fearing: "You have no respect for me tonight." Both are superb.
Her conviction melds with a confidence to allow the songs to be dressed either in the tribal percussion the title track, which opens this 12-song opus, a lone piano or acoustic guitar melody, or the full swell of the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra, as on the finale, Not Yet. Vocally she ranges from direct delivery to ensure the barbs hit home to sky-scraping falsetto that flies in tandem with the string section.
This power seems to come from within this truly once-in-a-generation artist, one occasionally and speciously written off as airy-fairy, ethereal or even aloof. Blasko got close to her masterpiece with the comparatively frisky As Day Follows Night in 2009. Now the enthralling I Awake lures listeners a step further into a brilliant, intense and intimate universe.