REVIEW – ANNA ASH – SLEEPER (2022) - MAXIMUM VOLUME
Anna Ash is a Michigan born musician now based in Los Angeles, who has had numerous songs that have featured on soundtracks. She has a new album `Sleeper` released this month and follows her last album `L.A. Flame` released in September 2019. This album was recorded in two sessions. The first in November 2020, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic; the second in April 2021, as the world started to re-open and gathering a band in a studio became a more viable option. The first took place in the Catskills, the second back in LA, both recorded live to tape.
The album opens with `Favourite Part` which the singer has said “The lyrics are about those moments in time when a relationship ends or something shifts and you look back at yourself, who you were before the shift, and barely remember who that person was”. It`s a dreamy number with what sounds like some hand percussion, a string arrangement, and some sweet backing harmonies. The vocals have a delightful lilt to them. The singer fled California in the summer of 2020 and was living in a trailer in her mom’s backyard where `Popularity` was written. An emotionally difficult time for the artist as she was overwhelmed by how divided her family and hometown community had become during the Trump era. This song opens with some captivating horns; a clicking beat and organ tinges shared throughout which allows the vocals a base to deliver her feelings of almost hopelessness.
`Seasonal` is a mid-paced offering a quite pop like outing which is a foot tapper where the music seems to grow as the number progresses. Title track `Sleeper` has a spellbinding laid back almost retro feel to it with a sort of resonating echoey guitar texture, gently tapped drum and a stripped vocal that becomes almost falsetto at times. It seems to tell of trying to trust someone and overcome that fear of jealousy. A nigh on ethereal composition that seems to rise and fall in volume as it evolves.
`Sgt. Pepper` may have nothing to do with the Beatles but the band`s club does get namechecked along route. This track to me had a fairly trippy nigh on hypnotic vibe and seemed to float along. The lyrics appear to relate to a force or presence that is there protecting the narrator and those that pass through their life. We have a brief reflection on a relationship hitting the skids with `Violently Blue` which has an enthralling sense about it and Anna`s vocals are delightful in this stripped back melancholic submission.
`Fire Season` is a mellow quite heart wrenching tale on a relationship that seems destined to fail as one is emotionally insecure and the other emotionally scarred. The title is possibly a metaphor for the inevitable parting. I loved the unassuming intermittent horn slices and how you could hear the guitar frets as fingers passed over them. We have plenty of emotion shared in Anna`s vocals as she unveils `Less Regret` a kind of hope that she will find a romance that will be the decisive one.
`I Was Just Your Evening` is an almost introspective musing on a romantic encounter that ended up being a one night stand with somebody that was emotionally damaged. The strummed guitar, pedal steel and brushed drum added to its poignancy. I felt that `Dress Rehearsal` had a Joni Mitchell tinge about it not only vocally but lyrically as well. The vocals ebbed and flowed during this tale of a skewed affair.
`What the Light Can Do` closes out this album and it`s quite ballad slightly gospel like with a piano and strummed guitar leading us along.
I did enjoy this album and thought that Anna sounded so much like Frazey Ford of the Be Good Tanyas, which to me is no bad thing. There`s a real vulnerability in her vocal delivery that at times is charmingly appealing. Another addition to the growing number of superb Americana / folk musical brotherhood.