“The Coast” – Jennah Barry
“The Coast” opens in a relative hush, and in 6/8 time, just Barry’s voice and a barely articulated guitar. The pithy rhythm section kicks in at 0:37, the unstable momentum of the uncommon time signature pairing oddly well with the singer’s sweet vocal presence, and the sing-songy melody she offers. The production is crisp, the arrangement both minimal and assured, and Barry sings without affectation or artifice. Already this feels like a strong antidote to the ungated arrivals thronging through the internet music scene, with their mud and trickery and self-absorption. Sometimes all I’m looking for is a little easy know-how, a little unselfconscious musical ability.
At 1:02, almost like a wave hitting the shore, 4/4 time arrives with the chorus, and it’s the shift here that is almost, somehow, the song’s hook. Sometimes, I realize, it’s not the unexpected time signature that boosts a song’s resonance as much as how a more common beat is at some point woven into the musical story. The 4/4 chorus smacks the song in the middle of a 6/8 measure, and dances with its own quirky rhythm, the drummer giving us the first and fourth beats but skipping the others. Barry sings more forcefully in the chorus, with a bit of Kathleen Edwards’ honeyed urgency, and yet somehow still keeps her gist hidden, allowing us to hear phrases more easily than sentences. I find the elusiveness refreshing.
“The Coast” is the lead track from Barry’s debut album, Young Men. Nova Scotia born and raised, Barry moved to Toronto in 2006 for college, where she studied jazz. She joined the indie pop orchestral collective O’Darling, and also played with a roots/country band called The Long Haul, but never took to the big-city thing. Returning with relief to Nova Scotia after graduation, she hooked up with producer/engineer Diego Medina, and recorded Young Men at his home studio, bringing some O’Darling compatriots in for the session. The album was released in May; you can check it out and, perhaps, purchase it via Bandcamp.