Sarah Harmer: Oh Little Fire

Regular readers here are no doubt familiar with my affinity toward Canadian Americana artists. Recall, if you will, Canadiana Week and my numerous musings on Kathleen Edwards if you need refreshing. One artist I wanted to mention during Canadiana Week, but wasn’t able to get to, is Sarah Harmer.

I first became familiar with Harmer’s music in 2004 with the release of her third album All of Our Names. I fell in love with the bouncy folk/pop of the album’s lead single “Almost,” and then devoured the album as a whole. Harmer’s follow-up, I’m a Mountain was released in 2006 and took some of the pop out of the equation. The arrangements there were mostly acoustic… even bordering on bluegrass in places. This was the album that really introduced Harmer to Americana audiences.
Now Harmer stands ready to release another new record. Oh Little Fire will hit the streets June 22nd from the Rounder imprint Zoe Records. After spending the last few years as an environmental activist, Fire is Harmer’s first new release in four years and marks a return of sorts her older sound of mixing her stellar songs with elements of pop production. The result is a particularly vibrant record that is instantly infectious.
The album grabs you instantly with the opening track, “The Thief.” The bouncy verses and chorus give way to a darkly rocking bridge, providing a nice contrast of sounds and mood in one three minute chunk. That’s followed by the single, “Captive,” an extremely accessible tune perfect for any summer playlist.
Fans who came to Harmer through I’m a Mountain may be put off by the obvious pop sensibilities displayed on those two tracks and others like them. They would likely be more at home with the sparse moodiness of “New Lonliness” or the finger picked melody and steel guitar flourishes of “Silverado.” The latter is a dreamy and atmospheric duet with Neko Case. It’s a fabulous blending of voices and a very strong track.
Overall though, this album is all about punch and pop. Harmer says she made a conscious decision to abandon the “pastoral, contemplative end of the spectrum” to focus on a more “aggressive style of production.” That style has placed the melodies and hooks right out in front of the songs. You often don’t need a second listen to get them stuck in the front of your brain. Each and every song here… from the sing-song “One Match” to the darker “Washington” give you something to latch onto.
Sarah Harmer: Captive (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Sarah Harmer: Oh Little Fire”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Her best since 'You Were Here'

  2. Nelson, you put a hurtin' on me like i've never known before with that music you played yestserday evening. that P. Griffen thing was a nice surprise. the Steeldriver song, so good to hear. Thanks for the good tunes!

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