Album Review: Barrie – Happy To Be Here

An international collective formed in New York City, Barrie creates a dream pop daydream on their debut.

Barrie is a band of happenstance, meeting through a mix of mutual friends and in bassist Sabine’s case, tinder. One could from the name alone mistake Barrie for being singer and chief songwriter Barrie Lindsay’s solo project but one thing that becomes apparent is that Barrie and their debut Happy to be Here is a sum of its parts. Co-Produced by Lindsay and Jake Aron (Snail Mail, Solange, Grizzly Bear) Happy to be Here has the dreamlike ethereality of those artists while also being grounded by Lindsay’s evocation of specific experiences and memories.

Barrie creates pop songs that build on the foundations of Fleetwood Mac and Haim yet present them in a much more east coast way. The band all met in New York and there’s a decidedly different feel to the album because of this, less of the sun-kissed pop of their west coast forbearers.

Happy to be Here announces it’s intentions from the off with the handclaps, shimmering guitars and starry synths of Darjeeling. Lyndsay’s experience of moving to and understanding New York are the backbone of the record, which also seems to create a collective document with her bandmates of finding yourself in a new place. The musicality of Happy To be Here while staying in the dream pop wheelhouse manages to venture into more experimental territory.

None of the original singles Barrie released, ‘Tal Uno’ or ‘Canyons’ are featured. While those songs were the band getting to know each other, the album is a reflection of a collective who’ve found their groove. ‘Clovers’ show the band at their best crafting a brilliant earworm of a pop song that expands with the heavy undulating synth that’s anchored in place through Lyndsay’s luscious vocals and chorus. The twinkling piano line that adorns ‘Clovers’ is proof of the layers that permeate throughout the songs. While the piano starts off front and centre it is quickly pushed into the background by the crunching synths allowing all these elements to swirl before entering the front and centre again.

Barrie takes the band members diverse music tastes, guitarist Noah and Keyboardist Spurge have a shared love of techno, and peppers it throughout the album dropping in on different genres as the record progresses. ‘Habits’ veers into afrobeat territory reminiscent of Foals ‘Cafe D’Athens’ but quickly becomes elevated into their dreamy world assisted by Lindsay’s breathy vocals. ‘Saturated’ is the most laid back and minimal song on the album consisting mostly of drum machine and sparse guitar lines. The album quickly bounces back from this with ‘Chinatown’ a jaunty number focusing on Lindsay’s memories of times gone by. Switching from the buoyant verses to the daze of the chorus, ‘Chinatown’ then erupts into a rapturous electric guitar solo that rips through the song bringing us back to the present.

Happy to be Here is like a summer daydream, soaking everything in while meandering through various thoughts and memories never quite settling on any specific moment before moving into the next. This is an album that takes you with it on a journey back to those lost days and confusing adjustments while taking on different forms to do so, dream pop here, minimal beats there and angular guitars elsewhere. Barrie has created a collection of snapshots that disappear as you get to close, but welcome you to go back and rediscover them, like an old friend that’s always there and ready to reminisce at a moment’s notice.