The Just Barelys
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The Just Barelys

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The Just Barelys instill beauty, intelligence, wit, melody and melancholia - and more - into just over 17 minutes of music. They'll do wonders with a full length record. Top comes from Stephen Kelly and Eleanor King, two audio artists in complete harmony on every track. Playing, they have a light touch, though the production sounds full and rich. Go right to track two, "(S)kills," or the reggae-pop of "Snake Pit," but any song will do. Fans of Yo La Tengo and Victoria's Young and Sexy will find an equal in The Just Barelys. Kelly writes from the heart in a sophisticated way. You'll find many rewards here.

- Sean Flinn - The Coast, July 2006


One of the most distinctive and satisfying local CD releases so far this year is the self-titled debut from The Just Barelys. The new project from experimental popster Stephen Kelly, previously known for the LMNOP series of cassettes, is immediately accessible despite it's eclectic instruments, rhythms and sounds. "I think I'm more confident with myself these days, to present the songs the way I want to, instead of obscuring them, which I used to," says Kelly. The record includes appearances from Ruth Minnikin (The Guthries, Heavy Blinkers) on vocals, Julie Harris (Piggy) on flute and nine others in instruments from air organ to castanets.

- James Covey - The Coast, April 2001


This is an album of honest, slightly skewed bedroom pop made by a rural Nova Scotian who was probably a bit twisted from growing up in Hamilton ON. Stephen Kelly (with a cast of contributors) pulls together songs that are simple yet very unconventional, as banjos, cellos, castanets, flutes and off-kilter beats appear as different times in the crafting of these tunes. Kelly spent a few years in the early to mid-90s in the temperamental Hamilton indie rock trio Kate Beckett. Of the three members, Stephen seemed to be the most sensitive, and perhaps the most unintentionally slanted, lyrically. Those elements are still evident, as he moved on to solo endeavours, the songs at their base are approachable pop, yet they are layered in peculiarty.

- Scott Ingram - Exclaim!, November 2001


The Just Barelys' folk pop is friendly on the surface, but ever-so-slightly "off." With a banjo and plenty of gingerly boy/girl harmonies, you'd expect the band to follow the straightforward lead of so many prudish acoustic co-eds. But the music swerves slightly in unexpected places, just enough to let you know you had them pegged wrong. A brief harmony over the chorus of "(S) Kills" redeems a start that could have been misinterpreted as trite, warping a polite little song into refreshingly accessible art folk. "Slum Lord" sandwiches the same pretty-but-alien harmonies between slide banjo and non sequitur drum track interludes to make a pretty and understated collage. Some tracks fall between the cracks, lacking the same subtle, oddball resonance, but they're still pleasant taken as twee ephemera. Goes to show you that artistic license in indie folk doesn't necessarily entail 20-minute acoustic solos or formless string-plucking. Nobody's calling the Just Barelys ingenious, but their vaguely offbeat ambience makes them pretty intriguing.

- Alex Molotkow - Exclaim!, May 2006


...one letter at a time

Stephen Kelly dresses his musical sound experiments in striped shirts and polka dot dresses before taking them to dinner. Although such well-dressed music is the result of collaboration with an ever increasing roster of artists, it is Stephen who remains the reluctant hero of our story tonight. He likes building instruments. He likes recording their sounds. He likes making gifts. And above all he likes making musical art as inclusive as possible. The result is a series of cassette-tape releases, LMNOP! L and M are now both available for $ 3 each, or for a trade - my neighbors were so pleased they threw him a dinner party.

- Becka Barker - Velocity, 1999


If the event name sounds austere, don't be fooled. Last year's Halifax Experimental Music Festival was a surprisingly fun affair, capped off by exuberant fans crowding the dance floor for The Dinner Is Ruined. This year's installment for HEMF looks to be just as accessible. Case in point: Stephen Kelly. Best known for his LMNOP series of collaborative cassette releases (N will soon be released), the NSCAD student will set aside the structured sort of sondwriting he does for his tapes to do a short "very unpracticed" audience participation piece on Saturday night. "It's not going to be the Steve Kelly show," he says. "It won't be very similar to [the tapes] at all." While some might feel pressure performing under the "experimental" banner, Kelly says that he finds it comforting. "Most hypotheses are usually wrong."

- James Covey - The Coast, October 1998


(excerpt) "Slum Lord," perhaps the album's best track, rings with a similar secret, emotional tenor as Kelly and King moralise revenge against an oppressive landlord. "It's not easy to be honest when you're wrapped with hate/ Don't let your conscience participate," they harmonise with calm sweetness and enough syrup to drown out the bitterness. Musically, The Just Barelys closest points of comparison are with The Owls' equally fantastic EP, Our Hopes and Dreams, or another local group, Dog Day. Kelly's reed-like voice is perfectly buoyed by King's round and warm harmonies, and both are extremely talented and inventive songwriters.

- Anu Jindal - The Dalhousie Gazette, November 2006


(excerpts) Quirky Halifax couple Stephen Kelly and Eleanor King of The Just Barelys create slightly skewed banjo-beat, bedroom dance music. While their band name insinuates they might be a pair of social outcasts, hunched over while suffering from a severe lack self-esteem and self-consciousness, nothing could be further from the truth. The soft-spoken, seemingly shy duo just do art geek right. (...) Considering the strength of DIY music-making these days, The Just Barelys have been forerunners for carving out a path for their own crafty creations within the eastern music scene.

- Shannon Webb-Campbell - ChartAttack.com, January 2007


The Just Barelys, Top (independent)

"When did I become a sketchy dude?" tops the list as the funniest self-reflective line of the year, thanks to this Halifax art-pop group. In just seven songs, all under three minutes, The Just Barelys establish a thoroughfare of head-bobbing harmonies, smart words and simple but plucky arrangements. Weird and wonderful.

- Sue Carter Flinn - The Coast, December 2006


Discography

Top, 2006
The Just Barelys, 2001

Singles and compilations:
Just Friends Sampler 2008 on Just Friends Records
Snailhouse tribute on Sappy Records
The Inbreds tribute on Gooseberry Records
Halifax Sampler 2007 released by Sam the Record Man

Available at Zunior.com
Songs streaming on www.myspace.com/thejustbarelys

Earshot National chart #134 on top 200 albums of 2006, top 50 on Earshot for three months, peaking at #25 for month of March 2006

featured on CBC Radio three podcast
Much Music's "Going Coastal", February 2007
Showcase at Canadian Music Week 2007
Halifax Pop Explosion showcases
Recently joined Just Friends Records

Photos

Bio

The Just Barelys (from Halifax, NS, Canada) began in 2000 as an independent recording project by Stephen Kelly. For the self titled debut Kelly invited a host of collaborators to contribute to individual recorded songs. The resulting record was well received, making waves on the Canadian campus community national charts. In 2005 Stephen paired with collaborator Eleanor King and recorded a new EP titled 'Top'. The songs are simple yet musically peculiar. King plays drums, keyboards, and sings harmonies while (songwriter) Kelly plays banjo, electric guitar, bass guitar, accordion, computer, air-organ, and a variety of original/home-made acoustic and electronic musical instruments. 'Top' stayed at #1 on CKDU FM for 8 weeks and peaked at #25 on Canadian national Earshot Chart for the month of March 2006. The Just Barelys play an energetic live set of addictive pop songs as a guitar and drum two piece.