Sarah Darling has been on the map for a few years but according to Wikipedia (not the most reliable source I know) the single ‘Home To Me’ has been her first entry on the chart. It seemed fitting, then, that I take this opportunity to introduce myself to her music through her brand new EP of the same name.
‘Home To Me’, the lead off single and title track of the EP, is a country/pop love song using that well-known tactic of country ‘buzzwords’ to get on country radio and find a way in to the romantic metaphorical lyrics 14-year-old girls post on Tumblr. This time these ‘buzzwords’ are the names of states, comparing certain aspects of the narrator’s lover to these states, I guess creating various symbolisms and connecting to fans living in those states. Yet, to Sarah, her lover feels like ‘home’ to her, and maybe she’s saying each of these states are home to her because they’re all part of the South. Either way, it doesn’t convince me that this is a country song. Musically we have a banjo underlying throughout the whole song and a vague steel guitar, as if this is another injection of country to what is frankly, a rather pop-sounding song, totally reminiscent of both the pop and country charts in the early noughties. The non-gender-specific harmonies are taken straight from this period too, in addition to your typical soft electric guitar and drum unit, maracas guiding the verses. That’s not to say I don’t like the song, it reminds me of the music I loved when I was 14, and it will be hugely popular with that demographic. Vocally she reminds me a little of Kellie Pickler and generally it’s a sweet, nice song that is gentle on the ears and accompanies a sunny day quite satisfyingly, the chorused blues-ish guitar solo adding a slightly-out-of-place element to the song. However, it doesn’t kick me out of bed or make me sit up and listen.
I’m hopeful that the second track on the EP, ‘How Dare You’, will round out the image a bit and show me more to a singer who appears to finally be coming over the horizon this year. To be perfectly honest it feels a bit like more of the same. A classic singer/songwriter style pop song with banjos added, lyrics about being helpless in love, as you can probably imagine from the title. It’s well-sung, but a bit cliché, and the weird pop-style echoes on the title lyric don’t sit all too well for me. Having said that, I feel a bit harsh being negative about it, because it’s one of the least offensive songs I have ever listened to. It’s simply pleasant and teenage girls will lap it up.
‘You Don’t Have To Be Lonely Tonight’ has a little more country flavour in its lamenting melody orchestrating the ballad. However, it, like the others, feels over-produced, and a polished electric guitar solo is further proof of that. Lyrically it’s fairly conventional, with the narrator offering the chance of loving again for the subject of the song. Again, it’s ‘nice’, pleasant, but it doesn’t grab me and that’s disappointing because I had hoped she’d live up to the hype that’s building around her. The final track on the EP is, for me, the best track, as it is an acoustic version of ‘Home To Me’. It’s not so much acoustic as stripped back a little, and is made so much better by the huge focus on the fiddle. There’s still a fundamental pop feel to it, but the country shines through much clearer and it comes across a lot more live and as ‘rootsy’ as someone like Sarah Darling could ever possibly be.
Judging by this EP and the media attention Sarah has been receiving of late, it looks like her third full-length album (set for release later in the year) will do fairly okay, particularly appealing to the teenage girls demographic. There’s nothing wrong with this as a musical offering, it’s just not aimed at someone like me and feels a little bland and ‘been there, done that’. I can’t see Sarah having a long and illustrious career based on this, but who knows what her new album could hold. Either way, it’s sweet enough to hold reign for a little while.
You can buy the ‘Home To Me EP’ on iTunes here.