Sincerity can go a long way for a musician, especially in these days of pre-packaged pop. It’s doubtful that ‘N Sync means every word they sing, or that it was Britney Spears’ idea to cover the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Producers can find talent and create stars, but they can’t fake what is honest and real. Sarah Harmer is both of these things, and that’s her gift. You Were Here is nothing but sincere.
Firmly rooted in folk-rock, Harmer’s music has a certain homegrown feel to it. These songs could be by your best friend or next door neighbor. Harmer’s voice is unadorned, and her choice to accompany it with little more than an acoustic or electric guitar gives her music a simple, heartfelt mood. You believe in what she has to say because she’s not trying to hide anything. While Sarah Harmer’s voice is sweet and pleasant, and she has an adequate command of the guitar, her true strength is here quietly confessional lyrics. Studying her own thoughts on love and heartbreak, Harmer doesn’t let herself get away with anything. Unafraid to explore her own pain, Harmer maintains a sense of humor. From the bright “Around This Corner” to the melancholy “Coffee Stain,” her understanding and wit shines through.
Harmer’s ability for uncomplicated poetry on You Were Here is showcased on the sorrowful “Capsized” and the delightful “Uniform Grey.” “What’s sense in being so sensitive?” she asks plaintively in “Capsized.” Her wisdom shines on “Uniform Grey” as she sings with a smile in here voice, “I haven’t been through what you’ve been through…and we could use that as an excuse if that’s what you chose.” While these two songs have little in common with each other in terms of tone, both are great examples of Harmer’s talent as a songwriter.
None of You Were Here is unpleasant, but a few of the tracks are weaker than others, such as “Open Window (The Wedding Song)” and “The Hideout.” Neither has anything truly wrong with it, but at the same time, they don’t have too much to say. Still, Harmer’s genuineness is still evident in all the tracks.
You Were Here is a fresh display of unforced honesty in a time where that’s becoming increasingly rare. Sarah Harmer has created beautifully sensitive music that is carried by the fact everything she does is real, and that’s something to appreciate.