A slow burn
Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer’s Oh Little Fire is a collection of poppy tracks that earns its title—failing to ignite any blazing passions, these songs instead evoke the familiar warmth of a smoldering campfire. Harmer’s alt-country gets a radio-friendly make-over here at the hands of Metric producer Gavin Brown, who bolsters the singer’s unembellished vocals with a swell of blustery horns here (“I Think I Will Sail”), a little lap steel guitar there (“Silverado”). Little Fire’s lead single, “Captive,” is perhaps Harmer’s greatest misstep, a blandly shimmering sugar-pill-of-a-song in which the singer’s delivery sounds more like producer Brown’s other leading lady, Emily Haines, than Harmer herself. In fact, one of the prevailing characteristics of these eleven songs is that they mostly lack a distinctive style, erring instead toward the kind of spiceless pleasantness that would make Harmer’s music easy to slip into pop-country radio rotation. The real treasures here are her lyrics, in which she confronts such themes as regret and self-absorption with a maturity that sets her apart from the rest of the “accessible” crowd. “I’ve left it so long / Coasting along / But I know I was wrong,” she sings on “Careless.” Oh Little Fire won’t top any year-end lists, but its thoughtfulness, packaged in these worn-in and unfussy arrangements, would make any of this album’s tracks a welcome respite from the puerile sentiments and diva posturing of Harmer’s pop-country contemporaries.