Barrie : Barbara

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A month after Barrie’s 2019 debut, Happy to Be Here, the five-piece band announced they’d parted ways. That wasn’t the end of the story, however; singer-songwriter Barrie Lindsay has returned, reintroducing Barrie as a solo project with the release of second album—or second debut—Barbara. “I’ve always craved big, layered sounds,” she says, and she keeps to her mission.

If I had not been told Barrie was now a solo pursuit, though, I wouldn’t have guessed it by simply listening. “Jersey,” the opening track, has the same dream pop sound, echoey and reverberating with hazy notes and backing vocals that the previous release gave listeners. Apparently, Lindsay collected several instruments, including dulcimer, mandolin, clarinet, flute, cello, trumpet, and her late grandmother’s harp. The soundscapes created distort these instruments, stretching them into huge, layered canvas. It’s a highly rewarding experience.

Something newly discovered for Barrie on Barbara is the use of a soft introduction before coming in with a heavier, more urgent beat—as seen in “Concrete” and “Harp 2.” These subtly dramatic structures are effective, and at the very least interesting. They also appear raw and emotional; honest is maybe the best way to describe it. Yet, these and the majority of the tracks are gentle, never ear-bursting. Lindsay’s type of dream pop isn’t necessarily the Cocteau Twins’ type. Whereas the latter’s is sharper, crisper even, Lindsay’s sound feels as if it’s been treated with a softer filter. It makes for a better dream, though, keeping the melody flowing and humming alongside the backing harmonies.

Perhaps it’s because this album is a solo effort, but the songwriting is much more consistent. Whereas there were three or four standout tracks on Happy to Be Here (deserving of being played on a loop), Barbara keeps to itself and is a unified project. Quality? Definitely. Though songs like “Frankie” and “Jenny” pique my interest more than others, the whole is ultimately stronger, fitting more tightly together because each song blended into the next nicely. Barrie Lindsay’s self-produced effort lingers in the eardrums even after the speakers have stopped singing. Though her group’s debut remains a high, Barbara is not to be skipped.

Label: Winspear

Year: 2022

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