My three favorite tracks from Once Upon Another Time are the emotionally exhausting ballad “Bright Lights and Cityscapes”, the title track “Once Upon Another Time”, and the witty “Sweet As Whole”. You can stream the entire album from Rolling Stone’s website.
From the second you hear the candle crackling on the opening track of the EP, you get the sense that this is not the same Sara Bareilles teen-pop-love-song writing. There’s something deeper to it. The pain and suffering and maturity she’s gone through in the two years since the release of Kaleidoscope Heart are immediately evident. You hear it in her humming. Her voice sounds hardened, more honest. The first track, done partly acapella, is both catchy and telling.
By the time you get to “Sweet As Whole”, you’re almost relieved to hear her let loose a little. You’re thankful she’s still OK, still finds humor in life’s lows. You relate to this song, and by the end of it you’re singing along. You can tell her and Ben had fun with this one.
But when you get to the last track, “Bright Lights and Cityscapes”, you feel almost as exhausted from it all as she seems to be. Sara tries reaffirm her strength before closing out the EP, but you’re skeptical. You want to re-listen to each song before taking her at her word. And you do.
Once Upon Another Time is a great step forward for Sara. It showcases her beautiful voice, her incredible song-writing skills. It’s a naughty tease of a half-step between Kaleidoscope Heart and her next release looming nearby.