Anna Tivel Opens Up Modern Folk Possibilities With Imaginative “Outsiders” (ALBUM REVIEW)
The music world, for years, has been steadily watching the old guard of strict genre lines slowly erode. This increasingly fluid approach to labeling music may lead one to wonder what the original labels meant in the first place, with “folk” being one of the most loosely defined genres. On Anna Tivel’s latest release, foreigners, Brilliantly imaginative instrumentation and production intertwine with Tivel’s precise, relevant and cinematic storytelling to once again open up the possibilities of what folk music can be.
Recorded live to tape and without the musicians knowing the songs beforehand, the intimacy and vulnerability are palpable from the start as the opening lines of the title track transport listeners to a serene carnival in orbit around the earth. as a deleted scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The idea that we can achieve great things together may be starting to sound like a pipe dream, but Tivel’s whimsical delivery reminds us that we’ve done it before, and it was beautiful.
As the opening ambient drone of the second track, “Umbrella”, begins, it’s clear that this will be one of those albums that is so aesthetically cohesive that it will always have to have been listened to throughout. A slow, understated dynamic swell from the band allows Tivel’s clear, smooth enunciation to wrap you so completely in the tragic storyline that the scenes effortlessly flow like a movie in your head that completely shakes you despite its beauty.
“Astrovan” and “Heroes” both display absolute honesty, full of love and understanding, as well as painful realities. While the first, a dreamy, melancholic waltz, tackles the hard truths that always begin to surface in a relationship after the initial spark has been ignited, the second brings out the album’s early harsh edges both lyrically and musically. Album producer Shane Leonard’s heavily syncopated percussion track brings an unexpected but well-suited dynamic to the album’s flow while the song deals with the all too often self-fulfilling tragic stories of songwriters who can’t seem to stop imitating personal trappings. and the failures of the great artists who preceded them.
The soft fingering of “Dark Horses” gives way to a melody that would feel at home on stage in a musical as the quiet contemplation of all the complex human triumphs and follies that are about to culminate. of the room. Along with Tivel’s knack for crafting melodies that serve his stories inseparably, the inventive arrangements and production throughout the album bring a whole new dimension to songs like “Royal Blue” and “The Dial.” Subtle flourishes of vocoder, organ and electric guitar come and go in loose patterns that bring a warm, organic vibe to the songs while the percussive parts are so intertwined in the arrangements it’s as if they take their place. own melodies. The remorseless voids spoken of in “Ruins” are filled by the band’s sober and subtle crescendos as they communicate with each other in support of the song’s vivid imagery.
“Invisible Man” is a brutally honest and thoughtful look at how society deals with the different kinds of fears, sympathies and susceptibilities it feels towards mental illness. Tivel says this album is about “looking deeper within ourselves and each other, really trying to see and examine the internal and external forces that keep us from connecting in any real way and the forces that bring us together. “. The realization that we are all much closer to becoming what we fear or do not understand than we think helps bridge the gaps that form between us and our fellow human beings. “Invisible Man” exemplifies this path to empathy on an engaging collage of syncopated grooves and aquatic, atmospheric synths and guitars.
After the cathedral choirs of “The Basement” fade into the ether, Tivel ends the album by bringing it all home in a way. Structurally, “The Bell” best fits the mold of what many consider a folk song. With just acoustic guitar and vocals with just a touch of understated, atmospheric electric guitar, listeners feel there’s still hope to make change for good, but doing it is going to make a difference. little bad, and that’s fine.