Barzin’s Notes to an Absent Lover isn’t typically the type of album that would make it onto my short list of favorites, but there is something about the delicate nature of the record’s near-perfect arrangements that really took a hold on me in 2009. Not to say that I shy away from quiet folk, in fact I am drawn to it more often than not, but rarely is a record so steeped in sadness that you find yourself playing over and over again. In terms of bringing on the waterworks, listening to Notes is the musical equivalent of watching The Notebook; It is difficult to do without shedding tears. From start to finish the album recounts the harrowing details of heartbreak from a shattered relationship. I touched on this theme in my original review of the record back in April, but the thing that still amazes me is how easy it is to relate to so much of the material. While few have likely been through such a gut-wrenching breakup in our lives, I am sure that most of us have seen at least on love come and go in our lives, given that there are lines and situations that can bring back emotions for all of us. For me, that is the great thing about any song or record, that ability to bring back a memory or take you to a moment from your past. Putting this record on my short list is a no-brainer.
That being said, Notes is much more than just a lyrically well-written record. Musically the album is so good that you could replace the words with complete nonsense and still be able to enjoy it. In some ways it is Iron & Wine meets Bob Dylan, making the greatest breakup soundtrack of this generation: a modern-day Blood on the Tracks you could say. The sonic beauty of Notes is all in the simplicity. There is not a lot going on in any given track but it is perfectly balanced; any more would be too much and any less would be short of what is required. Tracks like “Soft Summer Girls,” “Words tangled in Blue,” and “Stayed Too Long in This Place” are standouts, each providing a certain something that will stick with you long after you lift the needle off the record. Songwriters like Barzin are a dying breed these days, with far too many artists focusing on experimentation and irreverence. In these times Notes to an Absent Lover is a breath of fresh air and something we should all take a few minutes to enjoy.
Check out the rest of our “Best Albums of 2009″ list.