by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: June 14th, 2014
Label: Outside Music
I know it’s been said before but when it comes to Jill Barber it all starts with the voice. It has a childlike quality that is balanced off by a faint huskiness. Then there’s her signature quaver that sounds both vulnerable and alluring at the same time. You combine all of that with her breathy delivery and, hell, she could make the Canadian national anthem sound like a torch song.
OK, so that’s where it starts but that’s far from where it ends. Barber is not only a chanteuse, she is also a songwriter and very good one, even though she can’t seem to figure out which decade or even which generation she is in. On ‘Fool’s Gold’ she runs the gamut from Motown (“Broken For Good”) to Patsy Cline (“The Least She Deserves”) and from R&B (“Let’s Call It Love”) to Cotton Club-era jazz (“Darling It Was You”). Barber real skill lies in her ability to draw you in and focus on her voice so that you forget where and when you are – the distinctions between musical styles and eras simply melt away, and everything just sounds like “now”.
If Barber ever did decide to home in on one particular style of music, she might do well to consider the torchy sounds of “To The Last”. Although she was probably channelling 1950’s-style crooners when she composed this, to me it sounds timeless or even contemporary. I hear strains of Portishead in the opening and elements Goldfrapp throughout. Furthermore, with its reverberating guitar it has that David Lynch thing going on, which is always cool.
Barber is smart enough to surround herself with quality musicians and a top-notch producer, so this record has a full, rich sound from beginning to end. That coupled with Barber’s strong songwriting makes for a rewarding experience no matter what your taste in music.