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When listening to Derek Barber’s soft and intimate voice on “Eyes” from his second solo album as Perhapsy, it’s hard to believe that he had a genuine fear to sing. As he told SF Weekly, “I was really scared about it. It’s a hard thing to get over.” This phobia explains why Barber has stayed mostly in the background as the guitarist for Bay-area groups Astronauts, etc. and Bells Atlas and why his solo debut was an instrumental record.
For his sophomore album, Me Tie Dough-ty Walker, Barber not only steps up to the front of the stage but he takes the microphone for every one of its 11 tracks. What stands out from the album is that the influences of Barber’s partners are hardly heard, but instead he channels some of music’s most influential singer-songwriters past and present. On the aforementioned “Eyes”, there is an unmistakable Sufjan Stevens intimacy with the terrific work on the acoustic guitar and the whispery, bedroom vocals. A similar approach is heard on “So Far”, a tender track of trust and love. For the lovely “Morning Star”, arguably Barber’s best piece of songwriting, there is a Sea Change-era Beck vibe to it – from the lo-fi approach to the immediacy of the song to the vivid allegory in his words.
Perhapsy also show a broad range in their sound. “All My Soul Swallowed” is a vibrant pop-rock tune that is reminiscent of American Wrestlers‘ spectacular debut while “Showers” echoes of ’90s rock icons Collective Soul. The breezy, jangle-pop tune, “Every Now and Then”, is Real Estate-esque in its sound yet lyrically it resembles some of Ben Gibbard’s/Death Cab for Cutie’s relationship ballads.
But for “Psalm for David And Jonathan”, the band breaks out the reverb and crystalline guitars to create a shimmering, shoegaze-y rocker. It’s a fantastic track steeped with honesty and irony. Whether there is another underlying message is unknown, but it’s the one track where Barber and Perhapsy let their guard down and are fearless.
This isn’t to say that Me Tie Dough-ty Walker is “safe”, far from it. It is, instead, an album where the inner singer-songwriter inside Derek Barber has been unleashed. It is Barber sharing his experiences from his childhood, his relationship with those around him and religion, and him attempting to find meaning in his complicated world. Me Tie Dough-ty Walker might be a quaint and beautiful album to listen to, but it is also a fantastically written record. It is one that will be a stepping stone towards Barber achieving the accolades of the artists from whom he draws inspiration.
In addition to Barber, Perhapsy consists of Scott Brown (bass), Drew Brown (guitar), Aaron Gold (drums), and Jon Thompson (drums, production).
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Featured image by Odell Hussey Photography
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