[20 August 2014]
Toronto singer-songwriter Tara Beier may be an independent artist, but she has one heckuva large following for someone without any label backing. As I write this, she has 10,800 followers on Twitter and her press materials note that she has more than 35,000 fans on Facebook. That’s a pretty big “wow” factor for someone who has just unleashed a debut EP, Purple Trees, on her own. And, as far as these things go, it’s okay. It’s interesting to note that Beier is of mixed heritage: her mother is English and Cree and her father comes from a Filipino, Hawaiian and Spanish background. Just like her heritage, this EP is meant to showcase the fact that Beier has a differing personality from song to song, which sometimes works and sometimes, alas, doesn’t. However, Purple Trees is certainly intriguing, and I have to say that, as someone who is Canadian and has listened to his share of Canadian music, the EP certainly sounds unlike anything currently being released independently by acts from the Great White North. And that, my friends, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, you have to admire Beier’s sense of gravitas.
So what works? Well, “Mayan Sun” is what you’d get if you crossed the folksy strum of Joni Mitchell circa Blue with the vocal style of Neil Young. Another acoustic number, “Freedom Island”, also mines that certain Young-esque feel. And final cut “Give It Up” is Beier’s stab at Emm Gryner-style pop, and it is a nice little number. What doesn’t work? Surprisingly, the EP’s first two tracks. “Guns Road” actually admits that “I’m dredging along Guns Road” and the song certainly does dredge along, a kind of barroom stomp meets pow-wow that just seems to mix like oil and water. Also, the acoustic guitar ballad “This Innocence” has a line that goes, “This innocence is gone from me” and you wind up not really believing it, as Beier has a very pixie-ish voice that sounds a bit young. So, all in all, there’s certainly stuff to work on when it comes to Beier’s vocals and choice of material, but you do have to admit that she’s certainly unique and forging her own path. And, hey: thousands of people on social media can’t be wrong (can they?), so if you’re looking for something that’s one-of-a-kind in Canadian indie rock, Beier is definitely worth hearing.