A Dark Murmuration of Words
Everyone Sang /Thirty Tigers
Emily Barker hails from Australia where she’s earned a reputation as a fine singer-songwriter. She’s also done work for film and television. That’s Emily singing “Nostalgia”, the haunting theme song to the BBC crime drama, Wallander. “Pause,” from her Almanac album was used for the title sequence of the BBC drama The Shadow Line.
A Dark Murmuration of Words finds Emily contemplating the fucked-up world we live in. She worries about inequality, climate change, and the fairy tales we tell ourselves to justify the status quo. Most of the album flows along smoothly, with gently plucked guitars, languid vocals and cello lines underscoring the emotional resonance of the lyrics. Ecological themes run through songs like “The Woman Who Planted Trees” and “Where Have the Sparrows Gone?” It’s all very nice. It’s all very pretty. It’s music with a message, if you want to give it a close listen.
Then there is “Machine.”
“Machine” hits at about the albums midpoint. You immediately notice the stripped back instrumentation. The song is powers by hand drums beating out staggered rhythmic accents. Emily is the voice of the “Machine.” She sings “I made the world a place easier for me. Money in my pockets over centuries…. This world I made is harder, the more your skin is dark.” The chorus is jarring. Baker sings, “This machine runs on it’s own,” and is answered by massed voices saying, “Cut the brakes, grab the wheel.” The other songs on Murmuration are topical and invite contemplation. “Machine” sounds like it could be sung at a Black Lives Matter rally. “Machine” demands some kind of action. “Machine” is a real protest song.