It’s sort of like waking up from a deep sleep, scattered with dreams, when the first lilts of album opener ‘Darjeeling’ hit you. Barrie Lindsay’s voice, oozing with harmony, doesn’t do much to dispel the slightly woozy feeling that permeates through Happy to Be Here, the debut album from her and the semi-eponymously named fivepiece Barrie. By the time you hear the feet on the stairs of its middle eight (reflecting lyrics of the same phrase), you know you’re in for an imagist ride of many colours, albeit one that’s still meticulously plotted out.
If dream pop is your bag, it’s here in spades. The ’90s video game ether of ‘Dark Tropical’ and its synthy hook; the atmosphere builder of the full fat electronic keys in ‘Saturated’; ‘Teenager’ with its horn-like synth blobs.
That being said, the band are a mixed-up bunch and underneath the sparkle, there’s something slightly more frenetic. Drummer Dominic Apa also plays with Brit electronic rock act, Is Tropical, whilst multi-instrumentalists Spurge Carter and Noah Prebish are DJs who originally bonded over a shared love of house. Sabine Holler, meanwhile, is a German performance artist that the band recruited via a dating app. And somehow, all of this is audible in the mishmash wall-of-sound that typifies the likes of ‘Habits’, with its high-life guitar and post-punk bass, and ‘Chinatown’, with its classic pop-meets-chillwave and delightfully stringy guitar solo. ‘Geology’, meanwhile, crosses genre and decades as its summery West Coast ’60s soul guitar verses flow into ’90s dance-pop choruses.
The standout though is lead-single ‘Clovers’. It, too, shares the mammoth thump in its choruses, as its synths build, blare and bloop all over Barrie’s vocals, extending that middle syllable of the song’s title for what feels like aeons. But here, it’s the contrast with the verses that really make the bombast worth it. Simple, almost childlike lyrics backed by single note piano melodies that stop just as the song explodes back into life. Its harmonised vocal acapella closing is perfect too – syrupy and satisfying.
Shout-outs to album closers too: penultimate track ‘Casino Run’, which evokes synthwavers College (of ‘Real Hero’ from the Drive soundtrack), and finale ‘Hutch’, which is about as close to straightforward pop as the LP gets, piano-led with Barrie’s honeyed voice poured over the top.
The press that came with the album describes it as “snapshots of the band coming together”, and that “inclusivity and friendship is at the heart of Barrie”. Given the disparate nature of how the five individuals came together, and then managed to make it work so well, the latter must certainly be true. It’s the former that sticks with you, though, after the album has finished. The sense of being young, in a squad, kicking around a town. And that’s especially true when you find out that many of these songs were written as part of Barrie Lindsay’s initial career as a solo artist. When it comes to the debut she’s just released, you can take it that her bandmates are indeed happy to be here.
Happy To Be Here, the debut album from Barrie, is out now via Winspear.