Sarah Harmer

All of Our Names

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All of Our Names Review

by Johnny Loftus

Sarah Harmer's house sounds like a cool place to visit. With instruments and recording equipment in every room and traveling bands sleeping over, the place is filled as much with music as it is with warm sunlight. Harmer embraces this. "Engineered, mixed and produced by Sarah Harmer and Martin Davis Kinack at her house," the liners for All of Our Names state simply. And with just a few mixing and mastering tweaks, the album walked out the front door. There's fully formed adult alternative stuff here, from the robust head-nod lilt of "Almost," to "New Enemy"'s more stately melody. But listen to those drums on the latter, and the offhand chimes of the acoustic guitar -- close your eyes and you're in the Harmer house, foot on the front of the kick drum so it doesn't slide across the floor. This immediacy helps sell All of Our Names, since music like this can be smothered by over-production. It supports Harmer's smoky, vaguely Joni Mitchell-ish vocals, and the offhandedly prescient characterizations and observations in her lyrics, and makes the jumble of guitars, Wurlitzer, bass, percussion, and occasional horns that much more comfy. Remember Songs for Clem? Yeah, it's a little like that, only with a few more mics and a mixing board in the closet. Is that falling rain in the background of "Greeting Card Aisle"? The song's resignation is palpable and strong over the urgent acoustic guitar line, the one that accelerates and slows like an old car in winter. "Have you got me in your bleeding heart file/Next to Lady Luck?" Harmer asks. "Well this Light of your Life has drawn the blind," and you can just hear her bitter exhale of air. "Silver Road" is much happier, a bit reminiscent of Lucinda Williams, while "Things to Forget" adds some electro-organic synth work into the mix, setting up the sparer final section of Names. The sun, the weather, cars and roads -- they appear again thematically for "Things." "Can we pull over to the shoulder so I can write this song?" she asks, as autumn fades into the winter holidays. "Took It All" is spare, the sonic separation between its drums, organ, and guitar perfect under Harmer's starkly beautiful vocal. There's a chance this one was recorded in the wee hours, as the living room's lights spilled into the shadowy night. "Tether" might be the most personal thing here, its lyrics in the first person, angry and downcast all at once. She misses someone, but she has the house and its warmth as comfort, and that's something. Listening to the homey, gorgeous All of Our Names, we can vouch for that.

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