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Laura Barrett

Earth Sciences

(Paper Bag; US: 11 Mar 2008; UK: 3 Mar 2008)

If this were a full-length review, I’d have the perfect summary blurb to use: “Finally, an EP for those interested in Joanna Newsom covering “Weird Al” Yankovic parodying Nirvana.” But, this is not a full-length review, and said blurb isn’t entirely fair. Indeed, Toronto-based Laura Barrett’s Earth Sciences includes an oddly passionate take on Weird Al’s classic “Smells Like Nirvana”, hilariously complete with gurgling sounds. The question remains, as my friend eloquently phrased: “WTF? Who covers Weird Al?” Laura Barrett does, duh! While obvious given the fey voice, the Newsom comparison is also slighting, as Barrett’s quirky songs do not approximate Newsom’s sprawling poetic breadth. Plus, Barrett plays the kalimba, not harp! She describes her songs as ditties about “amorphous terror, planned obsolescence, and mind-body dualism.” This is as apt a description you’ll find for tracks like “Robot Ponies”. The title refers to the gift of choice on “Christmas Eve 2053”, and the melody is rather infectious. Perhaps the only misstep is Joshua Van Tessel’s remix of “Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests”, with gurgling electronic sounds more fit for Prefuse 73’s wet dreams. Personally, I’m just waiting for her cover of “Amish Paradise”.

Rating:

Zach Schonfeld is an associate editor for PopMatters and a reporter for Newsweek. Previously, he was an editorial fellow at The Atlantic Wire and graduated from Wesleyan University, birthplace of Das Racist, MGMT, and the nineteenth-century respiration calorimeter, where he served as the editor of Wesleying, a popular student-life blog. In his spare time, he enjoys visiting presidential birthplaces and teaching his dog to tweet. In addition to PopMatters, his writing has appeared online at Rolling Stone, TIME, Consequence of Sound, The Nation, USA Today College, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Rumpus, Paste Magazine, and the Hartford Courant. He can be reached at zschonfeld(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @zzzzaaaacccchhh.


Tagged as: laura barrett
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Laura Barrett - Robot Ponies
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By David Berry
10 Mar 2009
It's the tension -- mature lyrics against childlike music, complex expression against simple ideas -- that really makes Barrett so captivating, and makes Victory Garden a stellar debut.
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