Laura Barrett
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Laura Barrett

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Alternative Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"SXSW - Wednesday"

Laura Barrett is that quirky, crafty, half-hip/half-nerdy friend who miraculously managed to escape puberty with her imagination fully intact and who never ceases to charm you with her wiles and whimsy. Like one Joanna Newsom, she's embraced an atypical instrument (the kalimba), she has a serious childlike streak, and her songs have a certain emotional swoop to them that belie their innocent qualities. Yet unlike Newsom, whose ambitious compositions have found a comfortable home in orchestra halls by now, Barrett's tunes seem custom made for house shows and gatherings of friends. They didn't mingle so well with the strangers packed in at Emo's Jr., but then again, who or what does mingle well on a Wednesday just after noon? -

"Pitchfork: Forkcast"

New Music: Laura Barrett: "Deception Island Optimists Club" [MP3/Stream]

The kalimba, colloquially known as the thumb piano, is an instrument of sublime simplicity: The water-drop reverberations of plucked reeds or metal tines are amplified by a resonator box fashioned from humble wood or a hollow gourd. Classically trained pianist Laura Barrett plies her trade in miniature on "Deception Island Optimists Club", a kalimba-carried ballad where she makes the most of the instrument's rich, pure tones, and stands to do for the indie world's perception of the thumb piano what Joanna Newsom did for the harp (although her singing is more akin to Cat Power's retiring soul than Newsom's brassy world-jazz). If this were written for piano or guitar, it would simply be a forlorn dove of a song with a trembling, flighty melody-- nice if unexceptional. But the sprightly clockwork of Barrett's kalimba phrases, lurching forward and falling back with the organic melody, creates a more rarified and captivating atmosphere. -

"Thumbs up!"

"Barrett's arrangements are fascinating, an otherwordly glimmering mass of delicate folk, minor-key waltzes and dissonant polyrhythms[.]"
- NOW magazine

"Brampton Indie Arts Festival Report #2"

"Unassuming she may be, but forgettable she is not. Her candid warmth and smart, funny lyrics coaxed many a giggle from the audience members, who took in her performance in pin drop silence. With more shows like this, she may not be Toronto's secret for much longer." - (online version of Chart magazine)

"Paper Thin Walls 2006 Mixtape"

"Is "Robot Ponies" a novelty song? Only in the sense that it’s funny. Novelty songs are supposed to deliver their punch with funny words and funny voices; you laugh the first time, and then you play them for somebody else. But "Robot Ponies" is the rare kind of joke that gets funnier and deeper with repeated listenings. It’s a joke about desire and obsolescence, consumerism and power dynamics, technology and artificiality, the way that childhood wishes are inconveniently similar to adult longings for affection without obligations.

Part of what makes it hold up when it’s not novel anymore is that it’s a ravishing little piece of music—the kalimba line that underscores the whole song is too sturdily airy to suggest a novelty. It’s not just the plinky tone of Barrett’s kalimba that makes it sound like a music box or some other kind of mechanical marvel, it’s the comfortable roll of sixteenth notes that goes on for the entire song. And the first part that sticks in the memory isn’t the lyrics (aside from the most perfectly pitched vulgarity in living memory, on which the meaning of the whole thing pivots a little), but Barrett’s melody, whose slow minor-key arc and affectless delivery give the song a hint of someone trying not to hope too hard for what she knows she wants.

The original version of "Robot Ponies" appears on Barrett’s self-released Earth Sciences EP, and there are a couple of other versions floating around as MP3s: a performance from Brave New Waves on CBC Radio, and a live version on which she’s backed up by Owen Pallett from Final Fantasy." - Douglas Wolk, for

"The Year in Music - Dec. 22, 2006"

"[...]Pallett has shared stages with one of my proudest discoveries of the year, Toronto's Laura Barrett, whose Christmas-themed Robot Ponies got the nod from critic Douglas Wolk this week in the year-end wrap-up. Barrett plays the kalimba (African thumb piano) and, like Pallett, writes impossibly imaginative songs informed by the sensibilities of video games and instant messaging, and she will break your heart." -


* Recorded and released debut EP, Earth Sciences (2005, independent)
* Recorded CBC Brave New Waves studio session (March 2006)
* Ursula EP released (June 2007, Ta Da!)
* Earth Sciences re-released with additional remix (Paper Bag Records, February 2008)
* Victory Garden released (Paper Bag Records, September 2008)
* "The Hall," a short film featuring Barrett's music, screened at Cannes (March 2009)
* Composer/Musician, National Parks Project short film and documentary (airing March 2011 on Discovery)


Laura's songs have been played on CBC, NPR and campus radio across North America. Her musical contributions can also be heard on the following releases:

iNSiDEaMiND - "Scatterpopia" (voice)
Henri Fabergé and the Adorables - "S/T" (clarinet and voice)
The Hidden Cameras - "Origin: Orphan" (piano and voice)
DJ Cyber-Rap - "Funeral" (kalimba and voice)
Gentleman Reg - "Jet Black" (kalimba)
Maylee Todd - "Choose Your Own Adventure" (clarinet, voice, kalimba)



In 2005, Laura fished a kalimba out of the digital ether and fell in love with its magical meter. She got people's attention playing a Weird Al tribute show in Toronto, and since then has played for audiences from San Francisco to London, UK, calming and agitating at the same time. While Laura's thumbs and feet dance the music to life, her voice hops across the tree of compressed air to your eardrum, and makes a little home there.

Past events:

* Canadian Music Week showcase at Sneaky Dee's, Toronto (March 2006)
* Musical director/Co-composer for Maggie Macdonald's (Republic of Safety, Hidden Cameras) rock opera, "The Rat King" (August 2006)
* “Deception Island Optimists Club” nominated for SOCAN's inaugural ECHO Songwriting Prize (October 2006)
* North American tour supporting and playing in the Hidden Cameras (Nov/Dec 2006)
* East Coast solo tour (June 2007)
* Co-writer, Composer, and performer in Heartjob (Toronto Fringe Festival, July 2007)
* Musical Director, Co-Composer of The Rat King (Harbourfront Centre & New York Fringe Festival, 2007)
* SXSW Upper Class/Paper Bag Records Showcase (March 12, 2008 - Habana Patio)
* North American solo tour (May-June 2008)
* CBC Fuse session with the Hylozoists (June 2008)
* NXNE Sirius Radio/CBC 3 Showcase (June 13, 2008 - Reverb)
* London Calling's Canadian Blast Showcase (June 19, 2008 - The Borderline)
* Songwriter-in-Residence in Dawson City, Yukon (February 2009)
* Pop Montreal festival showcase (October 2009)
* North American tour supporting The Magnetic Fields (February/March 2010)