Emily Barker | A Dark Murmuration of Words | Review

Article Contributed by Nicole Lise Feingold | Published on Friday, July 10, 2020

I was climbing into bed when I heard the sound of my pipes screaming. The rush of water deafening the late night quiet. This time I knew exactly what it was. The woman in the silver BMW, minus plates was using my driveway faucet to shower again. The first time she did this I ran about my house trying to figure out if I had left the water on or if a pipe burst. When I finally realized it was coming from the shared driveway, I thought my neighbor was using the spigot after a mid-day surf. It wasn’t my neighbor. Rather I found a naked woman showering, streams of body soap pooling outside my garage. When it first happened, it was a little jarring but ultimately sad. Was she homeless? Maybe a prostitute? At 10pm it is terrifying. I got back into bed, but my heart was pounding. The explosions of post 4th of July fireworks created more anxiety. I tossed and turned. My neighbors have a child who cries every night. When they first moved in, I took his moans for squeals of ecstasy, irritate someone was getting lucky. (Sadly, I have not had sex in a really long time and obviously have no clue what it sounds like anymore.) With the return of the naked woman, warzone conditions and the annoying child next-door, sleep was nowhere in my future. Wide awake I threw on my PJs, powered up my computer, made a cup of tea and settled in to do what I do. I wrote about Emily Barker, the singer who found her way into my in-box.

Barker’s new album, “A Dark Murmuration of Words” is a soothing compilation of tunes. The tone of the music was exactly what I needed, especially at such a late hour. Like all great folk performers, Barker’s themes are profound, although still lulling. Consider just the record’s title. A murmuration refers to the spectacle caused by thousands of starlings flying in intricately coordinated patterns through the sky. The imagery of “A Dark Murmuration of Words” arouses a taste of what the LP holds in each beautifully crafted song that touches on societal issues like the environment and the ‘isms.’ The second track, “Geography” captures me immediately with the gentle, sweet picking of the guitar. Barker’s voice joins in seamlessly, remaining strong yet still delicate. There is a warm familiarity in her sound. Legendary singer-songwriter, Carole King as well as Diana Panton come to mind. “Strange Weather” is immensely striking, especially the chorus where Barker intensifies her penetrating calls. The majority of the tune is soft and slow which translates well as it is a lullaby to an unborn child. Listen carefully, though. It’s actually quite sad. The song is requesting forgiveness for the environmental horrors we all have committed. The formidable chorus closes with poignant reminders. In this track, Barker shares a similarity to Brandi Carlile and Alison Krauss. As an artist she mirrors some excellent company. “Machine” has a tribal start. The drums' intentional beat matches Barker’s poetic storytelling that illustrate the song’s importance with shrill like intensity. I hear Indigo Girls influences, especially their album “Shaming of the Sun” with its’ impactful messages. Then interestingly, it transforms into a Broadway-like hit with a surprising, energetic chorus of voices. This tune is extraordinarily fitting for the movement occurring right now. I have no doubt this will be the 2020 musical theatre, racial injustice standout comparable to “Do You Hear the People Sing?’ from ‘Les Misérables’ or ‘Hamilton’s’ “My Shot.”

When I’m flustered, sad, scared, even elated, I write. It’s past midnight. I’m finally calm. I’m happy with my album review and thrilled I have a new artist to love. I’m also finally tired. Hearing only the occasional car fly by, sleep is definitely calling. I leave the teacup in the sink, turn off the lights and head back upstairs, while Barker’s “When Stars Cannot Be Found” plays in my mind. “I see Venus shine through a silhouette of trees. I feel so small tonight, I guess as it should be. We are made of stardust, oxygen and bones. So don’t forget to look up, when you feel alone.”