The Barr Brothers: Sleeping Operator

review barr x1 cong

We reviewed this a few weeks ago but it’s out now and we’re mentioning it again because it’s so good.

In fact, with the releases from this week (see this page) and last — Jackson Browne, Josh Pyke — you could spend all your CD pocket money for the year and not regret it.

In two words, The Barr Brothers play melancholy anthems. The songs are led by glum vocals and acoustic guitar but they have enough cymbals and big electric chords (and country twanging) to keep it interesting. They’re more interesting than fellow peddlers of melancholia Midlake, and a bit more poppy than Ryan Adams.

The album opens with the introductory Static Orphans, and a sound like a harp (it could be a plucked viola), then banjo and handclaps, picking up momentum, with mournful vocals and gentle power chords; as drums and bass come in, it segues into Love Ain’t Enough, a restrained epic. Wolves is a slow, satisfying tune with country steel guitar and a cantering beat.

Even The Darkness is a gentle, verbally dextrous track while Come In The Water is a bit John Lennon, though with an Isley Bros style summery guitar solo. In as much as it ever gets speedy, the album goes slower the longer it runs, the second half sounds more like Paul Si-mon than anyone else.

Little Lover is good: starts off slowly, then in comes interesting percussion (a bit Tom Waits). Half Crazy starts off as acoustic Delta blues, then has a massive bluesy guitar solo at the end, reminding us of fellow Canadians Big Sugar. This should become an underground classic; its fairly unchanging tone might cost it mass appeal.

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