Sarah Harmer: Oh Little Fire

Videos by American Songwriter

Sarah Harmer
Oh Little Fire
[Rating: 3.5 Stars]

Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah Harmer’s solo work has been packaged in the past as alt-country and folk, and while this unhurried fifth album does not stray far from that territory, it hearkens back to her more eccentric work with the band Weeping Tile, and may be her most powerful recording so far. The unique timbre of Harmer’s voice is at once gritty and childlike (she shares some vocal quirks with Sam Phillips), and she applies it to songs that wriggle into unpredictable spaces, made even more vivid with the addition of mellotrons, Wurlitzers, and horns.

She and producer Gavin Brown (Metric, Three Days Grace) wrangle dissonance and harmony and make both sparkle on pert folk-rockers like “The Thief” and “Careless.” The sultry “New Loneliness” boasts a conspiratorially whispered vocal that recalls Froom-era Suzanne Vega. Harmer also explores stately piano balladry (“The Marble In Your Eye”) and gorgeous synth-laced indie pop (“The City,” “The Captive”). The twee “One Match” threatens excessive cuteness in its opening verses, but the melody tumbles around appealingly, then bursts into deeply satisfying choruses and a compelling cello-laden bridge. Fans of Harmer’s rootsier material will not go away empty-handed, as the haunting “Washington” and Trevor Henderson’s summery “Silverado”
(featuring a great guest vocal by Neko Case) both mine the Americana that brought her attention in the past, while the remaining tracks may provide entrée for a whole new spate of listeners.


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