(12 November 2011) Four years following Annie Barker's debut, the singer songwriter has emerged with a new five-track EP entitled ... for a better place. (Beautiful Revolution (USA) 7 21762 62307 7, 2011) and is, like her debut, produced by Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins). The EP features four new titles plus a remix by Danish Electronica / Ambient / Shoegaze artist Manual (aka Jonas Munk).
Not long after the release of Annie's debut album Mountains & Tumult (feature), the artist relocated to the UK where she has been based the past four years. The new EP ... for a better place. is a mini journey across the Atlantic, dealing with the hope and fears that surround a desire for change. She looks at how our decisions affect those who can’t speak for themselves and gives agency to those without a voice.
After Mountains & Tumult's more cerebral and intricately singer-songwriter styled songs, …for a better place. sees Barker fit into the Dreampop and ethereal genre seamlessly, with its rich synth and electronic production elements and smooth songwriting style. Annie's significant vocal prowess -- power and range -- truly glisten atop the arrangements. Sung and spoken layers are used to great effect.
The new EP opens with "Cruel" which echoes the bright arrangements and tones of the artist's debut album. Annie's very sensual lead soars above the arrangement as additional vocal layers are textured alongside. Sparkling guitar repeats the song's melody. "So Refined" is more densely arranged with guitar and percussion more prominent in the mix however Annie's vocals are ever present and draw the listener further into the song.
We asked Annie what she had been doing since she moved to the UK. She told us, "I've been doing a lot of songwriting as well as studying production techniques in order for my next body of work to be self engineered, produced, mixed, mastered, etc. As you can imagine there is going to be a lot of time and work dedicated to this task."
Annie told us about the photo on the back cover of the EP. "They boys symbolize my cats which I brought over from the States with me to the UK and the vulnerability they represent in that move with me." She said, "Two of the tracks on the EP are songs about giving a voice to our companions when they can't speak for themselves. This image is also about why I make music, with a view of hopeful expectation for the future, and the boys represent a part of that as well."
Listen for the thick but not overstated bass line in the more upbeat track, "Coat Off." It provides a gentle but rhythm for layers of Annie's tender vocals and bright keyboard arrangements. We were instantly reminded of the sound of the artist's debut album. The EP's final track is the very delicately arranged "Ghetto Birds." Lush keyboards and light guitar provide the foundation for Annie's whispy sensually delivered lead and additional vocal layers.
The "Cruel" remix is slightly shorter but as one would expect in a remix, more densely arranged and full of swirling effects. We appreciated the numerous enhancements that were made to Annie's vocal lines. The build in the last half of the song creates incredible power making it clear why the artist chose to include it on this EP.
Annie Barker's new EP is a tremendous project that has a a variety of tracks that are consistently produced. The five tracks are produced and performed flawlessly and provide a perfect segue to the artist's next full length project. Our only criticism is that the project is too short! The EP is available exclusively from Annie's website. We keenly await the next full length offering from the stunning Annie Barker.