Sunday, January 26, 2020

Anna St. Louis: If Only There Was a River (2018)

Release Date: October 12, 2018

Produced by Kyle Thomas and Kevin Morby

Side One: Water; Understand; The Bells; Paradise; Daisy

Side Two: Desert; Hello; Freedom; Mean Love; Wind; If Only There Was a River

Hailing from Kansas City, singer-songwriter Anna St. Louis released one of the most impressive albums of 2018. A collection of melodic, somber, and minimal folk tunes, her vocal style has been compared Loretta Lynn and Joni Mitchell and at same time expresses a varied emotional range.

"Water" features strings and a muted acoustic guitar, setting a mood of uncertainty and suspicion towards the figure in the song. "Understand" is a standout track, atmospheric and melancholy, using spare lyrics to perfection. Anne repeatedly asks in the refrain, "understand me, do you understand" takes on a hypnotic tone.

"The Bells" may be a sly take on Dylan's sardonic farewell song "Don't Think Twice (It's All Right), even Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Bells." "Paradise" is a folk song about finding possibilities in malaise: 

Paradise, Paradise
Has a nice ring
But it's hard to find

Side one concludes with an instrumental, "Daisy."

"Desert" has more of a Western vibe, a sense of wonder at the vast landscapes and their spiritual undertones. Musically, it's more sonic and epic. On "Hello" Anne sings "the dark is never dark enough" to what could be a mirror image of herself. "Freedom" is about a solitary wanderer searching, but keeps returning to a mysterious town connected with her past. 

"Mean Love" continues with the searching motif, asking if what appears to be good for you is actually that good. The soft Western tone of 'Wind" seeks a communion with nature. "If Only There Was a River" end the record on an uncertain beat, with the refrain "if only."

A quiet album with a lot brimming beneath the surface, St. Louis's introspective collection of songs leave a lasting impression.




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