My introduction to the charming sounds of composer Laura Barrett was in 2008 when she released Earth Sciences, an EP that featured Barrett accompanied only by her kalimba-playing, a Weird Al Yankovic cover, and a song titled “Stop Giving Your Children Standardized Tests, Pt. One. ” That one title is the best summary of Barrett’s sensibilities at the time but in the eleven-year gap between 2008 (also the year Barrett released her debut full-length, Victory Garden) and now, Barrett has been busy working as a composer for theatre and film (including collaborations with By Divine Right’s José Contreras: Porch Stories in 2015 and Birdland in 2018) as well as touring solo, with The Hidden Cameras and the now-defunct Weezer cover band, Sheezer.
Suffice to say that a single-sentence synopsis of Barrett’s last decade is quite impossible, but what hasn’t changed in the intervening years is how immediately her work engages. As her new song title suggests, she is still making captivating, quirky pop music. Accompanied by drummer Dana Snell, Barrett sings, plays piano and makes all of the pearly synth-pop flourishes on “Just the Same as Always”, a song that she describes as an “only child” among the eight new voice-and-piano compositions on her second album, Who is the Baker?, released next week. The song was recorded during a residency at the Canadian Film Centre and is a hallmark of Barrett’s signature vulnerability — a combination of raw, unfiltered emotion, songwriting acumen, and compelling stage presence.
Though certainly not a reset on her pop music career, for those unfamiliar with Barrett’s music, “Just the Same as Always” is as riveting an introduction to her work as Earth Sciences was in 2008, and a welcome return from a singular talent.