In an age when frenzied synth rock and buzz-saw techno are the names of the game, Barzin's Notes To An Absent Lover is a welcome anomaly. The Toronto singer/songwriter's third album finds him wading at a snail's pace through the rising waters of lost love and its grief-saturated aftermath. In a soft alto with just a hint of vibrato, he sings candidly about his sadness, enhancing it with snare drum shuffling, mournful harmonica and subtle washes of pedal steel, piano and strings.
Recorded by Don Kerr and Jeremy Darby, the nine songs are melancholic, artfully sparse and heartbreaking in their vulnerability. Rarely is an album so wholly committed to a concept from start to finish, making Notes feel less like a meditation on loss than an active attempt by Barzin to get through it. A downer, to be sure, but a beautiful one.
Top track: Soft Summer Girls
Barzin celebrates his CD release at the Rivoli Friday (May 1).