As a fan, my relationship to the music of Sarah Blasko has always been defined by a degree of ambivalence. While I highly regarded her début album, The Overture and the Underscore, this regard was undercut by the sense that a number of mind-blowingly amazing tracks were the ones doing all the heavy lifting. What the Sea Want, the Sea Will Have resulted in much the same reaction, and I basically lost touch with Blasko’s solo work after her third album, As Day Follows Night. With her sixth album, Depth of Field, Blasko once again leaves me feeling conflicted.
On the one hand, Blasko’s voice is in fine form on Depth of Field, conveying strength and fragility, and textured with a husky breathiness or a sharp clarity – often managing to maintain these conflicting qualities simultaneously –and the album’s darker, minimalist arrangements prove rather compelling. Lead single Phantom is solid, if unremarkable, and A Shot makes good use of strings from the bridge onward. Never Let Me Go’s strong electronic-beat counterpoints the skittish string section, while horns add a warm, dark tone that offsets Blasko’s vocal timbre. Heaven Sent will resonate with agnostics and laid-back theists, while the liar’s confessional, Making It Up, has an atmosphere of welcoming oppression which makes it truly remarkable.
Yet, on the other hand, the back third of the album feels like a slog to get to the end. From Savour It on, Depth of Field loses… something. At this point, nothing has really changed in the quality of Blasko’s performance, the production values, and instrumentation. And the songs are different enough from the earlier tracks to not come across as too samey, but something has happened and the spell is broken. On an album of ten tracks with a forty-one-minute duration, this is an obvious and regrettable shortcoming.
On balance, Depth of Field provides a clear indication as to why Blasko is a highly acclaimed songwriter and performer within the Australian music scene, beloved by fans and critics alike. It also indicates that even after nearly two decades as a solo act, Blasko isn’t in immediate danger of repeating herself and treading the same musical ground yet again. Even with its shortcomings, Depth of Field has piqued my interest and ended my estrangement from Blasko’s music.