Emily Barker “Fragile As Humans”

Everyone Sang, 2024

Emily Barker returns with an album which encapsulates the human condition with style and empathy.

While it’s true that we humans are quite fragile (see Covid) we’re also quite resilient and it’s to that resilience that Emily Barker clings to on ‘Fragile As Humans’, an album which refers often to the mortal coil from birth to death. With the songs sometimes personal, sometimes less so, Barker has crafted an album which speaks to the human condition and has done so with elegance, style and some adventure. While Barker’s previous album ‘A Dark Murmuration Of Words’ was a pared back folk-influenced rumination on the climate crisis, several of the songs on ‘Fragile As Humans’ feature elaborate (yet intimate) arrangements. The title track recalls, for this reviewer at least, the late Judy Sill and there’s surely a hint of Joni Mitchell in the lush guitars and supple double bass which underpins Call It A Day.

Barker opens the album with a subtle Neil Young-like country rock beat on ‘With Small We Start’, a song inspired by her return to her native Australia and spending time with her father which allows her to indulge in a bout of childhood nostalgia. However it’s the multilayered production of ‘Wild To Be Sharing This Moment’ which truly sets the scene for the album as Barker opines quite wonderfully on the miserable state of our current world with synths and strings swelling the song. ‘Loneliness’ is the most fragile song here, the strings and piano tentative with Barker’s voice just above a whisper and her voice remains hushed on the luscious tones of ‘The Quiet Ways’ which is quite mesmeric.

‘Feathered Thing’ is the most personal song here, its title presumably referring to Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Hope Is A Thing With Feathers’. It balances loss and hope and is cyclical, ending on the exact same notes as it began with, the circle of life writ large and sung with some passion.  The title song opens with a memory of times past, a teenage crush, before moving on to paint an affectionate picture of Barker’s current relationship. It’s a gorgeous song. On a more microscopic level ‘Life Is For An Hour’ compares the short life span of an insect with the much longer human voyage and it does so with a fine and whimsical Beatles’ like Wurlitzer sound. That short lifespan looms large on the closing song, ‘Acisoma’ (named for a species of dragonfly) which finds Barker in most intimate mode as she finds calm in the dragonfly’s shimmering wings. In Barker’s world, life might be short or long but it deserves to be hymned and on ‘Fragile As Humans’ she celebrates it in quite a grand fashion.


About Paul Kerr 438 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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