Yup, this sure is one sad album. Barzin makes the kind of desolate songs that challenge music writers to avoid writing entire reviews without mentioning "rainy day record." Damn, I blew it already. Actually, Barzin beat me to it on his website, calling his music a "soundtrack for a wet, grey day." But while the written portrayal of this type of melancholy singer-songwriter folk may have become cliched, Barzin's musical interpretation of it, thankfully, is not.
It helps that Barzin's got a few friends who happen to be fixtures of the Toronto music scene. Tamara Williamson contributes lovely backing vocals to "Past All Concerns," Sam Cino provides percussion throughout, and Lewis Melville's pedal steel is suitably affecting. The full-band approach saves Barzin from being just another lonely guy locked up in his bedroom with a guitar. Barzin's voice helps too. It's quiet, husky and soft, but slightly rough around the edges, too. A multi-dimensional voice which conveys sadness, hope and weary resignation all in one gently emoted lyric.
Barzin's melancholy implicates more than himself; it spreads at least as far as the "you" that is mentioned in every song. He may have "Morning Doubts" and has "come to love the way of the cruel sea," but "you do not know how hard you will fall" and have "broken plans/that you're holding in your hands." While at times Barzin evokes pretty images of autumn evenings, at other points throughout the record he's merely stating the vague ("There's beauty in the air") or the obvious ("And evening comes ... stays all night"). When Barzin lets himself become a bit too self-absorbed lyrically, the music follows; on songs such as "It's All Just Easier," a slowly strummed guitar is the only accompaniment, and the too-simple melody is a weak way to end the album.
But when Barzin's subtle laments combine with haunting musical accompaniment, as on "Cruel Sea," the result is a sad beauty worthy of entry among the slow-core canon of Red House Painters, Cat Power, Low, et al. It's an album for any weather, really, as long as the mood is appropriately mellow.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS: "Past All Concerns," "Cruel Sea"
By Caitlin Crockard
Jul 1, 2001