Sarah Burtan may be from Toronto, Canada, but her album 64 Magic Queens sure shows how she’s settled into her adopted home of Austin, TX. Her musical style falls under the large umbrella of Americana. Although “How To Run” features the sort of electric guitar solo one might hear in a country song, it wouldn’t be fair to label Burton’s music as country. Maybe it’s just an instance of that Texas atmosphere seeping in. Modern rock, with a touch of Texan mixed in, might be the best way to describe what Burton does.
Lyrically, Burton’s latest collection expresses frustration with romantic relationships, again and again. “I Thought We Were Having Fun” and “Love Is Not Enough” are song titles representative of Burton’s general mood throughout. One is left with the impression that love and romance haven’t lived up to Burton’s high expectations.
Even though Burton may be disappointed in how love has treated her, she sure sounds pretty singing about her various woes. She sings “Give It All To Me” with a bit of a cry in her voice. She sings this over a tasty guitar riff on a song that sounds a little bit like a ‘50s rocker. Then “Baby Why You So Angry,” which follows immediately after it, is an urgent rocker with punkish elements. Even during this latter rocker, though, Burton can’t help but fill the track with sweetness. Perhaps that’s the polite Canadian in her coming out. The character in this latter song may be overly angry, but Burton expresses nothing but hurt.
Burton closes out this 12-song release with a relatively hopeful song called “Today Is Gonna Be The Day.” It’s a positive confession, of sorts, that all the negative stuff in the songs that came before it will someday be over. No guarantee, of course, but true romantics never completely give up. There’s just gotta be a Mr. Right out there, even though he hasn’t been identified quite yet.
On “You Say You Want More,” Burton sings, “You say you want more/Somehow it feels like less.” This is an example of lyrical cognitive dissonance. When two people aren’t contributing equally to a relationship, the math just doesn’t work. This is how Burton must have felt when she penned these words.
Another rocker with punk rock feels is “Why You Gotta Kill My Dreams.” Sadly, we all come into new relationships with big dreams. We might not say it out loud, but when we’re newly in love, we wonder if this is the relationship that we’ve been waiting our whole lives for. Then, when we get our hearts broken, it hurts a lot.
You won’t finish this album believing Sarah Burton is a happy romantically fulfilled girl. You will, though, be convinced she is always nothing less than brutally honest. Even about the dark stuff. Although she places blame during “Why You Gotta Kill My Dreams,” she puts the blame on herself during “Another Mistake.” “Every time I turn around/I make another mistake,” she admits vulnerably on the song’s chorus. Yes, she’s human; she makes mistakes. However, this smart set of songs offers an example of Sarah Burton getting everything right.