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4.6 out of 5 stars77
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on August 29, 2000
What a brilliant gem of a CD! From the crunchy open chords of "Around This Corner" to the dying notes of "Everytime," this recording displays the highest level of craftsmanship in both performance and songwriting. The sound is spare yet rich, with coloration from trumpet, clarinet and especially cello. The production is subtle and sophisticated, but Ms. Harmer can rock it too, as she shows on the ferocious "Weakened State." She kicks things off in fine fashion with the totally cool, slightly country-tinged "Around This Corner" and follows with a couple of similarly first-rate songs before launching the listener into the dispairing "Capsized." The next song, "Lodestar" could, by itself, make a name in the U.S. for the Ontario-based Harmer, with it's slow, dramatic building from languid guitar and vocals to a magnificent, anthemic conclusion. Luckily, we don't have to settle for just one song-- the songwriting on the CD is varied, sophisticated and challenging, yet it maintains a remarkable openness and accessability. No review of Ms. Harmer's work can pass without mentioning the beauty of her voice-- goosebumps territory, without a doubt. This could be my all-time favorite CD. I give it my highest recommendation.
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on September 22, 2000
A well-deserved U.S. release of this indie album, previously available only on Harmer's website, with new artwork and a lyric sheet to match. That gives this edition of You Were Here buying incentive even if you have the older version (I do). Harmer's lyrics are such lovingly constructed entities that it's good to be able to see what exactly she wrote.
As for the music, Harmer's already proven herself an infallible songwriter in her Weeping Tile days. And after exploring roots, folk and country music on her previous effort, Songs for Clem (with the excellent Jason Euringer, who also appears on You Were Here), her voice has acquired an extra layer of richness and emotion that makes her music all the more attractive.
Harmer's always been a master at balancing a rip-roaring good time with her power pop and introspective depth with her balladry and poetic lyrics, and on You Were Here the songwriting's her most mature yet. The carefree romp of "Around This Corner" is reminscent of rousing Weeping Tile numbers like "South of Me" and "Every Good Story"; title track "You Were Here" features a dark acoustic-guitar line and amazing sonics, a mesmerizing meditation; "Everytime" leaves Harmer alone with her guitar in prime, lucid singer-songwriter mode; and first single "Basement Apt." is a seductive mid-tempo rocker that perfectly captures the feeling of living in Harmer's hometown Kingston, Ontario. I had stayed there in a basement apartment two years ago, and the song touches me every time; Harmer couldn't have captured the feeling better in any way.
Don't let this sublime work pass you by.
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on January 7, 2001
The first time I tried to listen to this cd, I lost interest and wasn't really listening to the songs. At one point in "Lodestar," though, the song just totally changes direction. That caught my attention, and from then on I was totally entranced by the music. I would probably be willing to pay just as much for an all instrumental version of this album, the pieces are that good. When you add the fact that Sarah Harmer writes some of the most refreshingly poignant insightful lyrics I've ever heard, along with her sweet, sweet voice, and you have for an amazing experience.
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on March 21, 2004
I've had this album since it came out and I'm shocked no-one has reviewed it. This women is a wonderful songwriter and she's blessed with a beautiful voice. I heard "Basement Apartment" on some college radio station or other and fell in love with it, bought the album on the strength of that cut and wondered why Sarah wasn't already a huge star. Standout cuts: "Basement Apartment", "Coffee Stain", "Capsized" and my favorite song that whole year "Don't Get Your Back Up". The entire album is a joy.
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on March 16, 2003
Arguably derivative of scores of other singer-songwriter folk albums from the likes of Jewel, Patty Smythe, and even righteous babe Ani DiFranco, Sarah Harmer's major label debut is important because of these similarities rather than despite them. On You Were Here she gets formula that all of these ladies employ entirely right on every single track.
Though catchy lead single "Basement Apartment" made the rounds on college and folk alternative radio, any song on You Were Here could have easily done its job. From the relentlessly boppy clarinet laced lead track "Around This Corner" to the scathing electric "Weakened State" and the sighing acoustic resignation of "Get Your Back Up," this disc is so relentlessly good and evenly paced that it's sometimes hard to single out any specific track as a favorite after it ends. Sarah's lyrics are outstanding but, more than anything else, her arrangements are extraordinary. The album not only mingles acoustic and electric guitars, it adds single horns, syncopated string ensembles, harmonious vocals, and stunning creshendos - all while sounding perfectly natural as additions to her decidely simple style of composing.
Make no mistake, You Were Here is a must buy for any fan of female singer-songwriters, whether you like Sarah or Sheryl, Alanis or Ani, ... even Joan or Joni. If Sarah Harmer can produce a second album of similar quality she will have unequivicably qualified herself as one of the pre-eminent songwriter so far this decade.
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on August 13, 2001
I have had this disc for about a year now, and I still listen to it as much as the first week I bought it (how many CD's can you say that about?). Originally it was the critical praise that got my attention (top 10 of the year in TIME magazine and the NY Times), but the proof is in the music; the first time I played it I was hooked! If you read the reviews on this site you'll notice that nearly everyone mentions different songs as their favourite; -that's how strong the songwriting is on this disc -there isn't a single bad song! There are a half-dozen songs that I could easily say are my favourite. The instrumentation is just right: a variety of instruments, perfectly complementing the vocals. Sarah's voice is heaven; just hearing it makes my day. The highest praise I can give this album is this: I own a few hundred CD's, and if I was forced to choose just 10 albums to live with the rest of my life, this would be one of them! Buy this CD! You won't be disappointed!
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on March 24, 2004
This album has all the hallmarks of a great musician. The tracks are diverse and each one is complex, but mostly in subtle ways. Sarah Harmer's vocal deliver is fantastic: expressive but in a natural way. The lyrics are poetic without being pretentious.
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on December 21, 2000
I have never considered myself a hardcore music lover (I'm more apt to buy books than music) but after seeing Sarah Harmer play once, I bought this CD, and am looking forward to buying others. Her folksy style reminds me of pre-MTV-Sheryl Crow and Edie Brickell. This CD has such an honest, mellow vibe to it, it is perfect for anyone looking to escape the tired boy/girl bands and the alterna-angst that overwhelms the waves these days.
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on December 11, 2002
I don't know exactly how to classify Sarah Harmer's music... it's an interesting mix of Rock and Folk and Jazz to make a wonderful final product. There are only two tracks that I dislike -- "Uniform Gray" and "Everytime." And that's just because of some awkward lyrics, the music is on par with the rest of the CD.
There are also really some great tracks on this CD. "The Hideout" has some great lyrics and the music to match. "Around the Corner" is a playful track accented by Clarinet licks which fit very well (not that I'm biased or anything because I play clarinet...) and some more good lyrics. "Basement Apartment" is just good... my favorite is Lodestar -- it builds up perfectly to a great climax at the end, and the muted trumpet works great. All the rest of the tracks are just as good, and I'd have to say the most uniqe one is the title track, "You Were Here." Very cool. I love the whole album, and would definately reccomend it if you like Rock or Folk, or Folk Rock, and Jazz. And if you're interested in the audio quality of the CD, it is an excellent recording, high fidelity and well mixed.
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on June 17, 2003
How is it that, although we have such a long, open border with Canada, it seems like a precious few of their great women singer-songwriters make it across that border? It appears that we are lucky we ever even heard of Sarah McLachlan, considering so many incredibly talented musicians have slipped through the cracks.
Sarah Harmer is just such one musician. She is absolutely incredible. Her CD contains wonderful insights, beautiful melodies, and magical vocals with her distinctive and unique voice. The CD kicks off with "Around This Corner," with its quirky yet perfect clarinet solo, and it just gets better from there. I cannot imagine being able to choose one song and claim it as my favorite, because the entire CD is just too good!
It's a great CD to sing along to, whether you are driving or lounging around at home. I have introduced Sarah to my younger sister and am proud to say that she, in turn, has introduced her to several schoolmates. This is definitely one artist who shouldn't remain lost in the shuffle.
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