Tuesday, April 5, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JILL BARBER - MISCHIEVOUS MOON
For her fourth album, Barber believes she has found her true voice. Actually, she thinks she found it last time out, with her Chances album of 2008. That well-received set saw her team up with producer Les Cooper, open up her songs to lush and large orchestral arrangements, and embrace classic sounds of romantic music from decades past. Now, on Mischievous Moon, she finds herself free to move forward with fewer fears: "I am more confident," says Barber, primed and excited for the record's release. "I feel more confident with every record. I feel I'm building a body of work. I'm at a place where I'm looking forward, but I can also look back. I have a foundation and I can build on it." Barber has always had the voice, and the songwriting chops, and has been a rising star since arriving in Halifax as a young folk singer last decade. Now Vancouver-based (blame new husband and full-time wage earner, CBC Radio 3's Grant Lawrence), she's developed a highly-individual style. "With Chances, it was the first record where I found I was doing a Jill Barber album. The earlier ones were more experimental, I was trying things on. Now I know what my style is. Now I'm comfortable with who I am, and for (Mischievous Moon) I made a conscious decision to push myself past that comfort zone."
The new album sees Barber embrace more sounds, and eras. Chances evoked 1930's to 50's productions, but with the first three songs of Mischievous Moon, she breaks out of that era. The lead, title cut reestablishes her vocal control of that type of material, but Took Me By Surprise is breezy and fun, and takes us to the poppy early 60's, the track a potential hit for the Mad Men fans. First single Tell Me follows, and it has a darker and far more modern sound, but still with Barber and company's rich and stylized orchestral production. "I wanted to make a record that celebrated the signature sound we make, the six of us, and push it to a new level. It's an evolution and a growth from Chances. It's a little heavier than that, more serious. I'm trying to make myself more serious, without taking myself too seriously. I sing about love and matters of the heart, and I try to create a mood with my music."
Where Chances was easily set in the past, Mischievous Moon is much harder to date: "I don't want to be locked into any one decade. I'm influenced by all the decades past, it's not the sound, it's the classic forms of songwriting and production that I'm trying to preserve and work in. The connective tissue is that these are real musicians, and we are making music the way people used to do it. I love songs that sound classic, and I'm trying to write songs that sound that way. I think classic sounds is what I'm going for."
Even the title hints at where she's going: "There's a reason I called it Mischievous Moon. I wanted it to have that evening feel. I want to play in the shadows a bit." One thing hasn't changed in all of this. Barber remains a true romantic, and love is always in the air in her songs. "I want it to be a soundtrack to people's love stories. The album sounds like a soundtrack to a film, and I like to hope people can insert themselves into these songs. Every love story needs a soundtrack, and I hope I can be that for some people."
For upcoming Jill Barber tour dates in Quebec, Ontario and B.C., visit www.jillbarber.com