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Jamie Barnes: The Fallen Acrobat

Mervin W. Malone Jr

Jamie Barnes

The Fallen Acrobat

Label: Silber
US Release Date: 2003-09-27
UK Release Date: Available as import

Silber Records has an excellent track record of releasing quality music from lesser known, but generally more talented artists whom the major record labels generally ignore. Their diverse roster included among its artists the likes of Aarktica, Clang Quartet, and Remora. Musician Jamie Barnes makes his debut on their label with The Fallen Acrobat.

The Fallen Acrobat is a decidedly low-key debut for Jamie Barnes. A low-fidelity recording, Barnes recorded the album entirely in his own bedroom within the space of a year and wrote 11 of its 12 songs. Though some might misinterpret the highly personal way in which The Fallen Acrobat was created as self-indulgence, Barnes acquits himself nicely by way of some really poignant songwriting. Also, self-indulgence is one of the fringe benefits of being signed to an independent label, as Barnes is.

The Fallen Acrobat is a predominantly acoustic collection of laid-back folk-pop in the vein of Gordon Lightfoot and the late Harry Nilsson, circa the late '60s and early '70s. Combining elaborate songwriting with a restrained and conversational singing style, Barnes creates an emotionally affective but musically redundant album.

Barnes exceptional songwriting skills are the album's main attraction. His delineating use of metaphor is most enticing. The title track, for instance, likens the experience of falling madly in love to the helplessness an acrobat experiences falling from a trapeze. Another song, "Burning Leaves" likens coming of age and mortality to decomposing like burning leaves.

Songs like "Games We Play on Road Trips" and "For Centuries" seem more like ephemeral meditations on the present. "Games We Play on Road Trips", for instance, vividly describes all the passing images and physical sensations associated with those images through the eyes of Barnes on a road trip, with little to no reference to anything symbolic.

Jamie Barnes's proclivity toward subtlety permeates the album, both vocally and musically. His understated vocal delivery seemingly imbues all 12 of the songs on The Fallen Acrobat with a detached, almost lethargic tone. More, the musical discretion exercised by Barnes on the largely acoustic recording tends to unintentionally lend a sound-alike redundancy to the album. By incorporating various musical novelties such as the xylophone, glockenspiel, and toy piano, Barnes somewhat offsets these issues.

The Fallen Acrobat is more fully balanced by its more diverse tracks like "Anyway", "Unhappy", and "Peaceful Protest". "Anyway" and "Unhappy" are augmented by the presence of faint percussive sounds in their respective backgrounds. "Peaceful Protest", undoubtedly the album's most colorful track, includes tambourine and flute, giving the song a slightly autumnal-Celtic feel. Another track, "Ambition is Poisonous" uses German voice samples in the background.

All things considered, The Fallen Acrobat is a cathartic, if not necessarily pleasant listen. Though, the discretely acoustic feel of the album (and this can't be stressed enough) at times makes the listening experience somewhat humdrum, Barnes perfects an emotionally enriching listening experience through his eloquent songwriting. Indeed, Barnes not only captures the intimacy of his home surroundings but creates an album of low-key pop confections sure to inspire perseverance in the face of failed and wasted dreams. Indeed, Jamie Barnes' The Fallen Acrobat challenges the listener to look inward and not be captivated by his or her own deep regrets. The Fallen Acrobat is a worthy debut indeed.

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