Anna Tivel – The Question
Anna Tivel’s new album ‘The Question’ leaves you wondering, pondering, from the everyday things to the big questions. Anna Tivel is an observer. She has an artist’s eye. She seeps in everything her eye beholds, without judgement. It just is. She has the enhanced sensitivity of all the senses. Her voice is beautiful. I am reminded consistently of Lisa Hannigan and occasionally of early Soak.
These are ten carefully crafted songs; lyrics rich in imagery combined with melodies delivered in that exquisite voice. There is a sense of drama, understated theatricality – complete with touches of pathos, kindness and detached concern.
Opening with ‘The Question’; a character study you could say. Followed with ‘Fenceline’, which may or may not be a comment on the border crisis in the US, our innate humanity and small, simple dreams of survival and serenity. Is that too much to ask? Perhaps, because:
Down here at the border, I’m just an animal.
Alone in the dark at the edge of the border, where coyotes cry and vultures circle.
‘Shadowlands’ is reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel. There’s a sense of a Sartre-style perpetual outsider, wondering, watching, taking everything in. An uncanny insight into the everyday tragedies and drama played out all around us, yet mostly unobserved as we walk on by. Anna Tivel is the watchwoman, taking it all in, and carving her witness into poetic vignettes, stories, and character studies.
‘Figure It Out’ makes it four in a row. It’s impossible to pick one song out from the other. These are all exquisite. Truth and beauty you could say, I could listen to her gentle voice all day. It has that certain quality. The cello compliments perfectly.
‘Minneapolis’ is particularly melodic. Just when I think I’ve found the best track, the next one comes along. This album gets better and better. I like the sound effect at the end of a plane leaving.
‘Worthless’ is a little bit different. Anna Tivel seems able to just capture our vulnerabilities, with a twist of pathos, examining our emotional spectrum, from anger and hurt to detachment and dispossessed. ‘Anthony’ – about losing everything in a fire – is another absolute feat of description, so much so that you can almost feel the heat and the gut-wrenching sense of loss.
‘Homeless Child’ continues that theme of the outsider, society’s outcast. It could be an anthem for our burgeoning homelessness heartbreaks in this advanced 21st century.
It doesn’t take much to go from just enough to nothing in the end.
‘Velvet Curtain’ is another poetic musing on the empty theatre after the show. Anna Tivel just seems to grasp these aching-empty, lost dreams of glory. She really is a special talent in this respect. This is Anna Tivel’s fourth album, engineered by Brian Joseph (Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens), and produced by Shane Leonard.
‘The Question’ is available now on Fluff and Gracy Records. It might just be my favourite from a female artist so far this year.