Miranda Barber

Skinny legs, check; jazzy backings, check; jazzy inflection, check. Could Miranda be coming from the school of Amy Winehouse circa debut album - Frank? Well, just a bit but not too much. The style and sass and swing are there though. The voice is the difference, not a soul-jazz voice like Amy, this is a quirky voice. The press release mentions her paralysed vocal chord but that’s not always a hindrance in the wonderful world of popular music. Where would Billie Holliday, Edith Piaf or Rickie Lee Jones have got to if accuracy was more important than expression and how you make the listener feel?

This is an open hearted album with some uplifting songs – look out Sweetheart’s Embrace for a liltingly uplifting twist of a song or the opening number, The Num Num Song, which is a striding statement of intent to take those skinny legs out and have a good time. The sound is jazzy and runs on piano and strings and a double bass. Organic sounds like cello and viola are added, along with, oh joy, a man impersonating a trumpet. The whole thing is full of catchy tunes and quirky inflections. The tone is a lot like early Ben Kweller in its joie de vivre and it’s nice to catch something leftfield like this and give it a boost. It seems that Miranda, an Aussie by birth, has been round London for nearly a decade, only getting to make a record thanks to winning an online talent contest. Guess she didn’t catch the ear of an A&R man looking for something that sounds just like what sells already.

To be honest, if you were to read the lyric booklet, some of the pieces would pass as run-of-the-mill soppy singer-songwriter territory. When I’m listening, however, the voice tells a different story and the vocal line is just another instrumental line. It’s the joy that wins through, with a bounce and a sexy swing to the backing – simple-ish arrangements and a nice acoustic like you dream it might be in the front room of your local with your favourite singer. The darker, slower pieces are full of atmosphere too and, as Captain Beefheart said – “if you’ve got ears, you got to hear”.

Ross McGibbon