Bairbre Anne – Sparks EP – Review
The singer-songwriters we often see coming up in the ranks these days are often carbon copies of the ones that came before them. Predictable, bland, safe and just terribly average. The world has gone mad for generic folky acoustic pop music, which makes it hard to find any genuinely original homegrown talent. Luckily, Dublin songstress Bairbre Anne just released her third EP, Sparks, which is a refreshingly original collection of pop tunes that add a new dimension on the singer-songwriter brand.
The EP is kicked off with leading single, ‘It’s You’, an electro pop delight. This is without a doubt the highlight of the EP, boasting a catchy melody and a groovin’ rhythm section made for the dance floor. Anne’s vocal is rich and is a strong statement of intent from the get go. Influences from the likes of Ellie Goulding are very evident, but make no mistake, there is an eclectic mix of styles present. The production quality is phenomenal, with a full range of instrumentation blending smoothly together. The relentless strings are balanced by the fat bass and soft piano. The melody and essence of the song is undoubtedly pop, but there are elements of dance and Jamiroquai esque sounding beats here. The opening track is made for the air waves, and would go to waste anywhere else.
‘Energy’ follows, which is a more tender ballad. The mood is brought down somewhat, and feels a little lacklustre after the intensity of the opening track. The drums offer a powerful groove, which brings the tune up a bit. The string section features heavily here, providing an emotional mid song interlude before the final coda. Despite the title, it ultimately doesn’t quite pack the energy as we might have hoped.
Any doubts that this EP has put all its eggs in one basket are laid to rest with the next track, ‘If Only I Had The Time’. A more up tempo acoustic tune, it almost has a Goo Goo Dolls feel to it, but in the best way possible. The long notes of the string section colour the snappy and irresistibly catchy chorus beautifully, and will have you singing along before you even know the words. The arrangement of the tune is done remarkably well, and is reminiscent of some early Radiohead, especially in the chorus instrumentation and harmony. Another highlight, this could easily be a second single.
Piano driven ‘Dark Heart’ is next, and is perhaps the best showcase of Anne’s vocal capabilities. She almost transcends into a sort of Florence Welsh persona here and there, with soaring highs and delightful trills everywhere. The tune manages to evolve from a fairly straight forward acoustic sounding pop song into something far more interesting in the latter half. The drums and bass catch off-beat rhythms as Anne delivers a phenomenal vocal performance before everything halts to a gentle finish. Her ability to pack so much variety and development into three minute songs is impressive to say the least.
The EP draws to a close with ‘Sparks’ a bittersweet and melancholic number driven by the alluring vocal line and steady pulse of the rhythm section and chugging guitars. This track excels in its simplicity. It is what it is: a stripped back acoustic pop song with the unique singer adding her own unique stamp on it. A delightfully eerie synth line breaks up the song before a final powerful chorus draws the curtains.
It’s not everyday that an EP under 20 minutes can explore such a variety of style, emotion and originality. Sparks has a little bit of everything in there, from the pure dance electricity of the opening track to the mellow bareness of the closing one. Watch out for Bairbre Anne, because she is surely destined for some serious radio play. You can catch her live in the Workman’s in celebration of her new EP on the 5th June. It won’t be one to miss.
Review by Finn O’Reilly