Album review: Sarah Harmer's 'Oh Little Fire'

Sarah Harmer's pop sensibilities shine through on "Oh Little Fire."
Sarah Harmer's pop sensibilities shine through on "Oh Little Fire." (Dustin Rabin Photography)
Friday, June 25, 2010


"Oh Little Fire"

Kindred spirits: Neko Case, Kathleen Edwards, Neil Young

Show: Sunday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500.

On her previous CD, "I'm a Mountain," released in 2006, Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer was in a ruminative mood, primarily focusing on acoustic music that was more insinuating than infectious. No longer. "Oh Little Fire," her winning follow-up, is bright and contagious at times, buoyed by cleverly engaging lyrics and an unabashed pop production. Calculated? Maybe. Refreshing? No question.

"A new wind will blow through everything/Through everything I know," Harmer sings on "The Thief," the album's opening track and the first indication that she's moving on. Sure, she's still capable of coming up with poetic musings perfectly suited to her wistful soprano, as the minor-key ballad "New Loneliness" illustrates. (A cover of "Silverado," a soulful duet with Neko Case, is even better.) But this time Harmer casually asserts her pop passions with songs that bounce, spin and charm. More often than not, the best of them boast lyrics that are succinct and disarming. Check out, for example, "Captive" ("I wanna be your captive/Forget the way I acted"), "One Match" ("If I only had one match left/Would I try to light a fire under you?") and "Late Bloomer" ("I was waiting around to be played like an old piano").

Perhaps best of all, "Oh Little Fire" is likely to wear well, adding a vibrant pop pulse to Harmer's concerts for years to come.

-- Mike Joyce

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