It comes as no surprise to find that Anna Ash's music often appears in soundtracks. There is a cinematic feel to many of the songs here, but that doesn't mean the lyrics are an afterthought.
Many of the songs here are remembrances of people or incidents. 'Favorite Part' recalls an old boyfriend and Sgt. Pepper memories of childhood. The second song in 'Popularity' is the song Joss Stone has been trying to sing her whole career. Soulful, funky, but keeping a folky home spun feel. 'Seasonal' could be one of Cowboy Junkies more upbeat songs, in fact there is a similarity in tone between Ash and Margo Timmins in places. The title song 'Sleeper' contains some of the affecting words you'll hear this year. "Waging war with whoever's in the bathroom mirror. 'Cause it's just me vs me. And my fear of loss and brevity." Channelling the spirit of the classic blues singers she conjures a song that is both hopeful and fearful at once.
With music that is equal parts folk and atmospheric indie pop, of the Mazzy Star or Cocteau Twins variety supporting her voice but never overwhelming it the album is not one that hits you with an immediate punch but reveals itself over time. And there are always those perceptive articulate lyrics. On 'Dress Rehearsal' "This ain't no dress rehearsal. If it breaks in your hands, you broke it man." A two and a half minutes reminder that this life is all we have. "Take my heart and take my weekends. And take advantage of how attracted I am to you" The revival meeting feel to some of the songs is highlighted best on the final song 'What the Light Can Do Now': "Hurry up gets your houses and kids. And furthermore, find your eternal bliss. And have you heard. There's nothing left you can eat. It'll kill you or make you look stupid and weak." Among the sometimes brutal look at her life and others there is the soulful music to lift you again.
The album was recorded over two sessions in the Catskills, and in L.A., both recorded live to tape. The immediacy of these album stems from the way it was recorded as if Ash is processing her emotions in front of the microphone 'Sleeper' is an album that will stay with you after a few plays, and as a contender for album of the year, it will take some beating.Tim Martin