Not long after the buzz saw guitar and jackhammer beats give way to the anthemic chorus on "Wasted Time," the opening track on "Lush," the lyrics begin to ring prescient: "I'm gonna hit hot, gonna make an impression," sings Maryland rocker Niki Barr in a voice that leaves little doubt she's accustomed to reaching her goals.
As the album unfolds, Barr's talent and promise continue to shine. Though in her early twenties, she sounds like a thoroughly seasoned pro, not only capable of writing smart, catchy, unharnessed rock songs but delivering them with enough power and passion to make most of the competition seem reserved by comparison.
Barr finds comfort in a lot of familiar tropes on "Lush," her first full-length CD. It's laced with acoustic-electric jump cuts, power pop choruses and layered guitars. Her talent is apparent everywhere. She had a hand in writing all the songs and plays guitar and piano as well, alongside an impressive cast that includes former Fighting Gravity guitarist Michael Sauri and Everything drummer Nate Brown.
For now, at least, Barr may have trouble avoiding comparisons with Avril Lavigne; the parallel is particularly evident on "Lush" when Barr vents on the radio-ready tale of comeuppance, "Used to Be." Still, there are bigger pop crosses to bear these days, and besides, several songs suggest Barr will never have much trouble winning over fans of such obvious kindred spirits as Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Thursday at the State Theatre.