Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'
Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.
Forward Music Group
27 March 2020
There's a hiatus, and then there's a break so long that fans are left wondering if the artist decided to retire early. Jennah Barry released her debut album, Young Men, in 2012, and a variety of life events caused her to put her music career on hold, particularly vocal surgery. With Holiday, Barry is back, collaborating with her music and life partner, Colin Neavis, who produced the album and played a variety of instruments. Parenthood also played a part in this leisurely return to music – Holiday was recorded at home in Nova Scotia in 20-minute bursts while Barry and Neavis' newborn daughter napped.
The rough edges on Young Men have been smoothed out on Holiday – the album is full of great songs, but there's a looser, more folky vibe here. Barry's voice, which sounds like a lush combination of Norah Jones and Jenny Lewis, wraps around these country/folk-tinged arrangements with graceful ease. Pedal steel combines with woodwinds on the opening track "No Dancer" as Barry sings "Poor little bird / Hiding your temper / Pause and wait for an answer." There's a lazy, almost unhurried nature to the song, but it also feels expertly crafted and not at all tossed off.
Barry is dedicated to the art of classic pop songcraft – the gentle, stuttering beat in the verses of "The Real Moon" shift to a more urgent tempo in the chorus, with light orchestrations that almost seem like Burt Bacharach home demos. In "Big Universe", she embraces an irresistible mix of dream-pop and lilting Tropicalia.
The stylistic shifts on Holiday are subtle, and the combination of styles even within the span of one song is often sublime. "I See Morning" seems to owe a great deal to the strikingly arranged indie-folk of Sea Change-era Beck, but Barry's voice also evokes the delicate beauty of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. Barry and Neavis are adept and applying a wide array of influences to this relatively brief yet sonically rich nine-track album.
On the album's first single, "Roller Disco", the bright folk of the arrangement is tempered with a longing sense of nostalgia and more than a hint of heartbreak. She sings of "The wrong side of Canada", and then adds, "I can hear your thoughts from miles and miles across / And if I listen close enough / they're not about me at all." The songs on Holiday are full of wonderfully executed musical concepts that work exquisitely well with Barry's thoughtful, multifaceted lyrics. "The whole record is about ruminating," Barry says in the press notes. Long may she ruminate.