What a nice surprise to discover a singer/songwriter who doesn’t sound like the norm in 2015. At only 20 years old Robert Barnett is displaying more much talent than other musicians who are just leaving behind their teenage years. On his recent release Afterglow Barnett brings only his guitar and vocals to the table and somehow makes the whole EP thoroughly engaging. This is a worthy achievement no matter what the age.
Barnett has some technical skill on the guitar but so do a lot people. The really impressive parts of the music are the unconventional changes and unpredictable patterns that he pulls off. These aren’t simple E-major to A-minor type chord progressions. His ability to introduce tension, dissonance and release with his guitar is something I have rarely encountered.
Then there is his voice. It’s not the typical intimate tortured artist deal that seems to be an act. He is so loose, never strains his voice and there are idiosyncratic details that are hard to pinpoint, which are original and appealing. On top of that his lyrics are unique and avoid clichés.
Afterglow starts with “Mid-Year Fall.” The song displays Barnett’s strengths but takes a little time to seep in. It took me three spins to fully appreciate what was going on. His lyrics are poetic and existential while not sounding pretentious. He sings, “The fire burns, the clock it turns, the hands are winding down. The wick has gone for another year, in the dark I’m sliding down.” “A Little Cloud” and “Riverbank Dream” are both good songs that build upon the vibe of the album. The only song that fell a bit flat was “Mess,” which was predictable and revolved around basic chords. Fortunately, he gets back on track with “Takoma Dance” and the closer “Afterglow.”
Overall, Barnett has done what few can achieve and that is to create his own sound with a guitar and his voice. Afterglow is a very good release. It’s not perfect but very enjoyable. Take some time with this release. His talent may be glossed over upon first listen. The best part about this is that Barnett in the grand scheme of things is just getting started. I'm inclined to think his best work lies a couple years in the future.
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