Sarah Harmer recently released her fifth studio album. Oh Little Fire doesn't stray far from what we know, but that's a good thing. I've been trying to write this review for some time now, but I find it difficult. She's not splashy. There's nothing, really, to grab hold of and sell. She's not Katy Perry. After years and years in the business, she'll still play a quiet little show at a tiny dive, or hop on stage and play guitar with one of her buddies, so perfectly down-to-earth. Ultra-Canadian.
So the real pleasure of her music is in the tiniest details: the subtle harmonies, a barely-audible accelerando or a thumpy bridge that seems ill-fitting at first, until you listen on headphones and realize the thump was there all along.
Harmer has perfected the two-and-a-half-minute city mouse/country mouse balancing act, her reverence for both worlds clear and beautiful. A favourite track, "The City" bounces along, as much about the love she describes as the city itself. It feels like one of those quintessential Toronto-songs, though I'm not sure it is. But it conjures images of houses and streets and places I know so well. It feels like those post-college years of wandering at night time, a little tipsy, through alleys and shortcuts in the Annex, maybe sharing a joint with a friend, free-wheeling and soaked in reminiscence. "The city's got its stake in us," she sings, "it's keeping receipts of our hello's and our hi's."
I can't think of much more than this to say, strangely, because each of her albums is the same: perfect and thoughtful and full of charm and heart. Every year when I bake Christmas cookies, I tuck my iPod into my apron and hum along to every song she's ever recorded.