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Sophie Barker - Seagull

Sophie Barker, Seagull

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SOPHIE Barker, one of the incredible voices behind Zero 7’s musical magic, has opted for a more plaintive sound on her latest album, Seagull, and it’s a bit of a mixed blessing.

Beautiful in places, frustrating at others, it’s an album that leaves you wanting more – although not necessarily in a good way.

Best known for supplying vocals to In The Waiting Line, as well as the delectable cover of Leaving On A Jet Plane (as featured in a British Airways advertising campaign), Barker undoubtedly has a dreamy set of vocals – comparable to Zero 7 colleague Sia Furler.

But while they’re frequently set to some magnificent beats with the likes of Zero 7 and Groove Armada (with whom she has also collaborated), in solo form they’re not always used to their maximum potential.

The songs that make up Seagull rarely get out of second gear… and while this gives rise to a pleasant, often serene listen that properly showcases the tenderness inherent in her voice, it also sometimes feels like a missed opportunity.
The highlights, though, still make Seagull worthy of anyone’s consideration, especially Zero 7 fans.

Home, for instance, is a moving tale of lost love that finds Barker’s mesmerising vocals set against sombre piano chords and a striking central guitar riff that’s sparse but telling, while title track Seagull again spins a heartbroken yarn over some intricate violin and piano arrangements.

Say Goodbye, meanwhile, juggles French pop sensibilities with Sophie’s haunted vocals and acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer and piano melodies. It’s actually pretty close to Zero 7 territory and therefore another instant favourite.

Sometimes, though, the haunted nature of the songs, and the bittersweet vibe that comes with them, feels a little repetitive. And it’s a feeling not helped by a track like Bluebell, which drops a Morcheeba-style vibe and guitar riff, and enlivens the overall vibe with a feeling of positivity amid love.

Bluebell more than anything underlines the lack of similar material, and the need for more of it. It’s the sound of Barker having some fun and it’s utterly infectious.

But even then, she strips things back down and returns to more plaintive mode in I Sit And Hide, which though beautifully delivered, finds her regressing back to a quieter, more sombre state of mind.

Seagull is therefore a curious listen: one that’s undoubtedly and sometimes irresistibly as beautiful as it is poignant, yet one that doesn’t leave you entirely satisfied either.

Download picks: Seagull, Home, Say Goodbye, Bluebell

Track listing:

  1. Paradise Lost
  2. Seagull
  3. Just For You
  4. Home
  5. Say Goodbye
  6. Maybe I
  7. Bluebell
  8. I Sit And Hide
  9. Insight
  10. Paper Thin