By Joshua Stevens
Longing for someone who is no longer there: this is a common theme in music. With Sarah Harmer’s new album “Are You Gone,” the ideas of loss and sorrow are so subtle that the listener doesn’t even know they are on this journey until the end.
“Are You Gone” is Harmer’s first album since 2010’s “Oh Little Fire.” Active since the late 1980s, Hamer’s newest outing provides a look into her love life and centers on the process of moving forward. She describes this album as a “spiritual successor” to her 2000’s “You Were Here,” her breakthrough album.
Harmer goes from sitting and wishing her loved one would return in the opening “St. Peter’s Bay” to accepting her heartbreak and moving on in the closing “See Her Wave.” Along the way, Harmer spins some beautifully crafted lyrics about heartbreak (“What I Was to You”) and feeling alone (“Wildlife”). The album slowly builds confidence as it goes along, as Harmer moves closer and closer to a state of contentment.
The best moment on the album comes in “Little Frogs,” where Harmer focuses on finding beauty in the small things in life. The song brings vivid imagery to the forefront, like little frogs in the front lawn and Harmer’s creaky basement door in her childhood home. It’s a stripped back, touching song on the second half of the album, a song that showcases how much she’s changed from the beginning of the album, where her character fails to see the good in anything. Though many albums deal with loss and heartbreak, this album tells the story eloquently to keep listeners interested.
Musically, “Are You Gone” mixes 60s folk with modern pop influences. Laid back tracks with a sole acoustic guitar border songs with some drum loops and faster tempos. There is even some steel guitar that sneaks into a couple of tracks. This genre blending gives the album some flow, but the production is not so overbearing that the lyrics don’t come through. Every word is heard, and Harmer delivers her message in every song. It all comes together to make a pleasing, if uneventful sound. The main issue with the album is that it seems to not take any risks musically. However, this can be forgiven due to the clarity of the message that comes through the seamlessly blended genres.
“Are You Gone” will probably fly under the radar simply due to Harmer’s relatively unknown status, but it is a solid singer-songwriter album from an experienced musician. The story is a subtle tale of heartbreak, and the blending of genres effectively puts that story front and center.
Josh’s Rating: 7.6/10
Joshua Stevens is a senior journalism major and sports writer for Cedars. He enjoys rooting for the Tennessee Titans and listening to old-school music.