Analogue Music | Sarah Harmer - Are You Gone
Sarah Harmer: Are You Gone

Sarah Harmer: Are You Gone

Artist: Sarah Harmer · Written by Matt Conner

Date Released

21 February, 2020


Arts & Crafts

I heard what I needed right before the one-minute mark.

Fifty-two seconds into "St. Peter's Bay," the opening track to Sarah Harmer's new album, Are You Gone, there's a slight move into a lovely chorus. It's a minor moment, but a noticeable one nonetheless, a sign that Harmer's songcraft is sharp as ever.

To be fair, there was legitimate reason to be concerned. The last time we heard from Harmer was back in 2010, with the release of the criminally overlooked Oh Little Fire. That album, like several before it, featured the sort of thoughtful compositions upon which the Canadian singer-songwriter had built her entire career—acoustic compositions that drift as they wish toward rock, folk, and country terrain. Then she disappeared.

It's not as if Harmer has been completely off the grid. A few musical activities, compilation albums and side projects have come calling, to be sure, but activitism became her chosen creative outlet these last several years, largely toward environmental causes. That's no surprise for anyone familiar with her catalog.

For Harmer, the observations always burn deep, whether it's a scathing political take or a wrenching emotional sentiment.

Are You Gone (Arts & Crafts Records) is Harmer's brand new release and fortunately it's everything fans were hoping it would be. An artist long appreciated for her ability to survey a scene and describe it with such poetic clarity has honed her lyrical sensibilities even further. "St. Peter's Bay" is the perfect example, a lead track and album highlight that reflects on a relational end against the backdrop of a hockey game played on an icy bay near Prince Edward Island.

So tides will shift and ice will lift
And creeks will run again with their thundering
No more I'll be an island, an island adrift
In an ocean in endless wondering

Here we see Harmer using the surrounding terrain to describe the topography of the heart. "The ice out here's black / Only thing lookin' back is my own reflection," she sings before musing, "Still we had a good skate, didn't we baby?"

Harmer's ability to take in a landscape and reveal what is true comes with musical teeth on "New Low." "Somewhere in the fine print buried deep, it's a gray area," she sings atop a jangly rock number that's burns as quick as a punk number. "Where all the excuses come to meet, it's a gray area."

For Harmer, the observations always burn deep, whether it's a scathing political take or a wrenching emotional sentiment. Sometimes Harmer herself is the one left wrestling with the realities she's describing. On "The Lookout," she repeats again and again the painful lesson learned, "The beauty of the place was blocked by the way I held you too close."

It's impossible to know just when we'll from Harmer again, if at all, but her work remains important in whatever sphere she inhabits. What's also clear is that her observational skills have only grown with time, a beautiful guide for both internal and external spaces worthy of our trust—even if takes her a bit to get back with us.