Kelly Lynn Barber is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Bridgewater, New Jersey. “Breaking Barriers” is the follow-up to Barber’s 2014 debut EP “Cold Reality”, that was custodian to the internet hit single ‘My Own Contradiction’. “Breaking Barriers” is a loosely conceptual release about overcoming adversity, personal limitations and - problems by finding strength in one’s own self. Even if the music is somewhat indistinct it are Kelly’s vocals and lyrics that form the main attraction.
Barber plays a brand of alternative pop, a convergence of alternative rock with elements of indie rock and pop punk. “Breaking Barriers” is indebted equally to artists as Michelle Branch, Kelly Clarkson but also early Coldplay and in lesser degree Seattle grunge. Kelly Lynn leans more towards a readily pop oriented direction in comparison to fellow New Jersey indie singer Karousel. Overall Barber’s music is closer to Branch’s independent debut “Broken Bracelet” than any of her later more poppier material. As a general rule Barber is at her best at her most straight up rocking. Towards the end of the EP Kelly Lynn allows her soul to truly shine through in the final song.
“Breaking Barriers” offers up a good cross-section of Barber’s various influences while retaining its pop polish. The EP opens with ‘Done with You’, the lead single about liberating oneself from toxic social elements, where Barber combines the lush production work of “Brand New Eyes” Paramore with Michelle Branch song craft. 'Eventually’ is the catchiest and most immediately accessible of the bunch. ‘Tearing Me Apart’ opens with a Nirvana-like riff. ‘What I Had Planned’ sounds like an early Coldplay song. The more rockier numbers tend to have a light grunge undercurrent. The songwriting on “Breaking Barriers” is rather subdued for the most part, and sidesteps big choruses and earworm hooks when it can. The concluding ballad even pulls slightly in a Lene Marlin direction, which is a direction that begs further exploring.
Kelly Lynn has an incredibly fragile, breakable voice that makes her life-affirming, self-empowering lyrics all the more resonating. Barber shortsells herself somewhat by remaining within a mid-to-low register for the entirety of the EP. Her delivery is one of her strongest suits, as it is both honest and emotive. It probably wouldn’t hurt if she’d put some power behind her vocals. Kelly Lynn is at her best vocally towards the end of ‘Eventually’ and during ‘Discord’. The quieter songs, notably tracks as ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Discord’, help sell Kelly Lynn’s vocal abilities. ‘Discord’ is the requisite ballad, and its minimalist composition allows Barber to show what she’s truly capable of. For this reason alone ‘Discord’ is a definite highlight of “Breaking Barriers”.
“Breaking Barriers” was recorded at Fresh Produce Studios with Jake Detwiler producing. As is the expected norm in pop the production is airy, bass-heavy and incredibly smooth. Rather strangely it puts more emphasis on the instrumentation than on Barber’s vocals, the very thing that is supposed to sell the record. Despite the odd choice in production, Kelly Lynn is able to hold her own. In February 2015 Kelly Lynn Barber announced that she was changing her artist name to reflect a change in musical direction. She reintroduced herself as Kelly Sirko, adopting her mother’s maiden name.