Published Feb 25, 2014A five year gap between albums is not necessarily a bad sign, but it is rarely cause for optimism; more often than not, it is the hallmark of a writer's block or a laboured recording process. While Barzin admitted he initially envisioned the long-awaited follow-up to 2009's Notes to an Absent Lover as a more stripped-down affair, To Live Alone in that Long Summer is an elegant, contemplative album that thankfully bears little trace of its long gestation.
Joined by Nick Zubeck on guitars and an all-star cast of backing vocalists that includes longtime friend Tony Dekker (Great Lake Swimmers), as well as Daniela Gesundheit (Snowblink) and Tamara Lindeman (the Weather Station), Barzin leads the listener through occasionally hopeful ("This going nowhere/ Must lead to somewhere") meditations on urban life, empty relationships and lonely nights dressed up in unobtrusive strings and steel guitars. Townes Van Zandt or Sparklehorse are obvious touchstones, but Big Star's "Blue Moon" or "Nighttime" also come to mind, and the reverb-doused vocals and looping guitars on first single "All the While" could be the product of a collaboration between M. Ward and Explosions in the Sky. The elegiac, horns-driven "Fake It 'Til You Make It" offers a welcome change of pace, but otherwise To Live Alone rarely deviates from comfortably hushed tones and brushed drums.
Barzin's music will never be a go-to choice for high-energy workouts, but this album should make a fine companion on nights when wallowing a little longer in one's loneliness feels just right. (Monotreme)