The Barr Brothers are your new favorite fall comfort blanket. Listening to their latest, Sleeping Operator, feels both comfortable and like a breath of fresh, folk-rocky air. One could pop it into a CD player (or perhaps just stream it…) and randomly select a song, only to easily imagine the album being some long-lost piece by Tom Petty or even Local Natives. In short, this is a great album showcasing both the versatility and what seems like the history of the band.
Opener “Static Orphans” opens with great ambience that seems to take influences from any number of airy emo-pop bands, yet seamlessly blends in banjo and beautiful vocals to create something better than the whole. Listening to it leaves this author wanting to find a rustic, weathered old house in the foothills of…somewhere, and sit down with a mug of steaming coffee or cider while watching the mist fade over the hills.
Despite this inspiring start, or perhaps in accordance with it, the rest of the album takes the listener on an equally evocative, if inconsistently great, ride. The second track, “Love Ain’t Enough,” takes a much more traditional contemporary rock approach, adding little new to a solid modern catalog while simultaneously not subtracting much. The third track, similarly, adds relatively little (while again not detracting), but the fourth, “Even the Darkness Has Arms,” again feels like it comes closer to making life better, somehow more real. This tune has a very Josh Ritter-esque feel, heavy on acoustic guitar and light, appealing vocals coupled with solid guitar bridges.
Other album standouts include: the melodic, pensive “How the Heroine Dies,” which feels like the post-war dirge its name suggests; the Cat Stevens-esque “Valhallas,” with its upbeat melody and a chorus that almost cries to be heard in a small coffee shop, the clinking of glasses echoing as the singer plaintively seeks absolution; the vaguely Pink Floyd-esque “Please Let Me Let It Go,” which oddly wouldn’t feel out of place midway through The Wall.
Sleeping Operator will make you feel more whole. It’s not something you’ve never heard before; in fact, that’s a big part of its charm – it’ll leave you feeling like you’ve gotten new material from artists you’ve always known, despite being by a band of whom you’ve probably never heard. And if somehow the artists referenced above don’t ring a bell – well, welcome to a wonderful world in which a combination of folk and rock create something that feels just about like…home.