Barzin – [Album]

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Musicians that are able to coax a believable form of dew-eyed, city-set heartbreak are a rare commodity these days. Thirty-five years ago, songwriters like Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and (pre-Swordfish Trombones) Tom Waits made it look so easy to find the beauty of walking down a rain-slicked street, resigned to the fact that they feel very much alone in a very large crowd, but it has begun to look more and more like a lost art in recent years. Conor Oberst has tried to capture that feeling with both his Human Highway and Bright Eyes projects, but he has only occasionally attained it because he always appends some irony, soft pathetic fallacy or a plane crash to his attempts, thus turning them into a contrived spectacle; there's no intimacy, only intimate imitations. On Notes To An Absent Lover though, Barzin not only nails that feel so many others have found evasive, he makes it relatable enough that it was draw a wry laugh of solidarity from everyone listening that has been down so long they've forgotten where up is.

Anybody that's ever been lonely will fall headlong in love with Barzin as, from the opening lament of “Nobody Told Me,” he begins muttering phrases and pleas that those listeners know they've whispered themselves on occasion over a sympathetic backdrop of brushed drums, reflective piano and tentative, minor key guitars. The singer's almost regal sounding resignation spills over the sides of “Nobody Told Me”  and into the subsequent eight tracks, drenching each avenue and alleyway in cold knee-buckling compassion. Tracks including “Queen Jane,” “When It Falls Apart” and “Lost” all paint the portrait of an exhausted man that has cried himself dry and screamed himself hoarse as he delivers lines line, “So I drank all I had/ I wrote down some words/ But I was wasting my time/ Cause nothing would come” (from “Queen Jane”) that are impossibly angry and full of self-loathing – but still have a marked, hopeful urgency implying that the singer will continue forward regardless – convinced that there's a bright spot off in the darkness that's almost in reach. Your heart really will go out to him.

And he does continue. Both “Stayed Too Long In This Place” and “Look What Love Has Turned Us Into” signal that a change has been put into motion within the singer and he will be leaving this nocturnal drama soon, but there's no doubt that he is an altered beast by the close of Notes To An Absent Lover. As “The Dream Song” fades out, Barzin is left standing – still on the street, still in the rain – and smiling wanly because he was certainly injured, but he got all the poison out. The singer's smile is only skin deep though. If one looks inside, he's still crying and he may invite you in for a weep, but his next release will beg for something different; Notes To An Absent Lover is the sort of record whose honesty would be cheapened were it attempted twice.


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Notes To An Absent Lover
is out now in Europe, but won't be available in the United States until October 13, 2009. Buy it now on Monotreme's web site or pre-order it on Amazon .

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