UK singer Sophie Barker has touched and satisfied hearts for over a decade through her stunning voice and songwriting within the substantial and impressive work with others or as a solo artist. With the electronica/downtempo band Zero 7 she sang on and co-wrote some of the band’s best loved songs like their biggest hit ‘Destiny’, and the likes of ‘In The Waiting Line’, ‘Passing By’ and ‘In Time’. Her work with The Egg co-writing the song ‘Walking Away’, legendary producer Grooverider on his debut album, with Groove Armada, and her work with The Rainbow Collection with whom she has recorded 3 albums of contemporary night-time music for children and set up The Rainbow Collections Children’s Foundation to build help raise money to rebuild a school in Kenya and help children in deprived areas worldwide, all steadily and firmly marked her out as a talented songwriter and musician.
To this fine list of course there are her own releases, her acclaimed debut solo album of 2005 Earthbound consisting of songs written whilst touring with Zero 7 and this year’s follow up Seagull via Ho Hum Records, both instilling Sophie Barker as one of the leading and essential singer songwriters in the world. Her new album was again awash with praise and positive attention, it’s instinctive, perceptive, and soulful songs touching deep within all feeling its passion and emotion. The AA-side single of ‘A Forest/ Say Goodbye’ released October 31st is the third taken from the album and epitomises Barker’s skill at bringing deep feelings and emotions all have felt into her songs to touch far beyond the ear as in ‘Say Goodbye’ or seeing and feeling the same connection elsewhere in songs as in the cover of the iconic song by The Cure ‘A Forest’.
To be honest covers are not the favourite feast here as generally artists simply turn out a version of the original without giving it any distinct fingerprints of their own but ‘A Forest’ is not really a song that can be fiddled with and taken to different extremes without losing its emotive power and Barker has recognised this keeping its core intact whilst nurturing and caressing with sounds and touches to draw out the atmospheric and haunting claustrophobia it possesses. The pulsating and integral bass ‘heartbeat’ of the song is left to drive the song’s feeling and sound and to give the track it’s important darkness and alongside the guitars and expressive sounds the suffocating like feel is still as overwhelming as on the original. Vocally Barker sounds like Barbara Gogan of The Passions another contemporary band of The Cure at the time of the release of this track as a single, her expressive voice adding to the tension.
‘A Forest’ is a song musically and lyrically that can be interpreted in different ways but the underlying emotion and passion is distinct and powerful. Barker in reference to the song and ‘Say Goodbye’ commented “I felt that the two songs revealed perspective of love from two ends of the spectrum. The sweet, sad but light ‘Say Goodbye‘ voice to the deeper more edgy sharp sound of the voice in ‘A Forest‘ expressing two very parts of the same woman of the same soul both dealing with their fears, hopes, illusions and trying to find some peace once out of the emotional darkness. A cathartic dualistic musical relay!”
‘Say Goodbye’ is a gentler track but just as emotively powerful, bringing a personal involvement from not only the artist but the listener too. The song is clean and uncluttered with unnecessary cleverness musically or lyrically, something that is an impressive element of all her songwriting. The band around her is tight and more than capable of bringing the lyrical sentiment and intensity into the music and the song strikes with sincerity and understanding as well as passion.
The single is another fine example of why Sophie Barker is a torch for singer songwriters to follow as well as lovers of music that goes much further than simply touching the ears. There are few artists that manage to reach the depths within as well and consistently as she does, this and her album Seagulls the proof.