This Old Heart
Produced by Sam Weber
Reviewed by Chris Ho
The soft strum of a ukulele is a fitting introduction to the delicate and powerful sound of Abraham’s debut EP, This Old Heart. Victoria songstress Sydney Batters describes her solo project, Abraham, as “a rebirth,” and this could be part of the reason why the EP identifies with, and yet transcends, the singer-songwriter tradition. Her songs eloquently express the bittersweet nature of heart-on-your-sleeve love. It may be a timeless theme, but the delivery is far from generic on Abraham’s debut.
This is not an EP that tries to get your attention with bubbly melodies and energetic drum beats. It’s up to the listener to share that moment of stillness when the fog beings to clear and you’re overcome with thoughts about past heartbreak. This feeling comes to mind in the opening tracks “Naked Daughter” and “Send My Love.” The emotional weight gradually lifts – not just toward the end of some songs such as “To Be Free,” but also at the end of the album when you hear the powerful line: “Take my body down when I die / Burn it bright baby, baby burn it bright / Throw me in the ocean, let the breeze carry me on.”
Each song feels carefully placed to enhance the album’s emotional journey; yet it’s done in a way that feels natural and free. And therein lies the brilliance of This Old Heart. Abraham is described as a “project [that] is centered around the evolution of life, love and death. It is a journey through human connection and relationships.” And the EP delivers this in a genuine and refreshing way.
What is most striking to me, however, is that Abraham’s voice is not at all fixed in any one kind of singing style. It moves freely, ascending into the sweet and airy and back down again into sultry and soulful song. This is especially apparent in her final track (and my favourite so far), “Burn Bright”, which was featured on CBC Radio 1 last week.
Though the emotional depth of Abraham’s songs often shine through in a raw and stripped-down way (such as in “My Head My Heart”), the production of the EP enhances its overall themes and moods. It sounds as if producer Sam Weber recognized that Abraham’s sweet but powerful voice can stand on its own, and decided to take a “less-is-more” approach. I loved how some of the instruments and sounds felt subtle and, at times, even ambiguous. It was sometimes difficult to discern which particular instrument played a certain part.
Abraham will release This Old Heart tonight (Nov. 28) at the Victoria Event Centre at 7 p.m. Copies of the album will be available at the show, and soon digitally available online.
Chris Ho is a freelance writer and Victoria-based musician.