Published Jul 02, 2018Having deftly delved into folk and vintage jazz on prior records, Jill Barber is now setting her sights on feel-good pop. And the Vancouver-based chanteuse has the chops to pull it off throughout much of her new album, Metaphora.
Lead single and standout track "Girl's Gotta Do," for instance, draws on her jazz background while also employing a pop sheen worthy of chart toppers like Adele and Amy Winehouse. The fits-and-starts beat and cabaret piano gel fluidly with Barber's slinky and sensuous vocals. Equally impressive is her lyrical skewering of male privilege and her empowering chorus that is unabashedly feminist without ever spilling over into preachiness.
Those elements and more make "Girl's Gotta Do" a layered, pointed and irresistible pop gem. And while nothing else on Metaphora reaches such heights, other ambitious moments nevertheless abound throughout the LP. Prime example: "Clumsy Heart," whose refined production flirts with becoming saccharine but stops just short. Its gleamingly sunny melodies, synths and pre-programmed beat, along with Barber's fearlessly earnest and to-the-point delivery, make it the kind of pop sing-along that numerous parents are sure to enjoy with their children. At the same time, there's a purity and sincerity to the song that'll make all but the most cold-hearted of listeners hum along long after the closing notes.
Other highlights include the folk pop, resolutely assured "Bigger Than You," (its key lyric being: "Your teeth are bared / But I'm not scared"); the earnestly minimalist ballad "Mercy"; and the slickly produced, alluring come-on "Love Is."
While some narrow-minded longtime fans may yearn for the more traditional folk or jazz sounds of her earlier work, Barber's true believers will applaud this brave step out of her prior comfort zones. And the songs are catchy enough to snag her plenty of new fans too. (Outside)