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Heavy Meadow

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Audio CD, August 9, 2011
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$15.76 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 1 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

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Classically trained since three, Anni has traditionally used the viola as the centerpiece to her craft, being plugged in like a guitar or in the traditional way. Going in a different direction than her Steve Albini produced debut Rockwell, which was essentially her one woman show caught live on tape, Anni is now backed by a full band employing more instrumentation including electronics. The results are breathtaking and striking with her love of pop shining through. Anni used her take on pop to hip hop to garage rock, borrowing production techniques and musical conventions which resulted in a handmade pop music sound. Heavy Meadow is the album featuring that song containing the hook that you just can't get out of your head.


I first heard Anni Rossi back in 2005. The Chicago based violist was with Carla Bozulich's then band as it toured Evangelista across Europe, and I caught an impromptu gig at Barden's Boudoir only a night after Bozulich had supported A Silver Mt Zion at Koko. The night afforded a twenty minute set to Rossi, who captivated the early birds with a rousing solo performance of shirking, playful vocals, fierce string manoeuvring and her impassioned tap and foot-stomping. Anni Rossi was a force, her talent and passion belying a tender age. In the years since this modest introduction, it has been pleasing to see her signed to forward-thinking indie label 4AD. Though previous homemade EP releases had been made through her 'I'll play anywhere' attitude to global touring, Rossi enjoyed the privilege of recording her debut album proper, 2009's Rockwell with Albini, famously recording all the tracks and their arrangements in a day.

That record was a progression from her earlier, more stripped down sound. Here, viola and vocals called in drumkit and occasionally, synth chords. Whilst Rossi's solo live shows can be enchanting in their performative nature, here was an album that recognised the potential that a studio recording can offer. Arrangements were used modestly, only to complement her unique viola style; chords stabbed at and strung-out, her instrument assaulted and embraced. Inevitable comparisons with nu-folk's other 'weird string instrument' wunderkind, Joanna Newsom, inevitably followed - but Rossi's voice was unmistakably her own. Whilst Newsom may be content to reside upon an austere folk seriousness, a promise of authenticity - Rossi's work is more playful, less self-aware.

On Heavy Meadow Rossi takes these studio elements further, expanding her songwriting repertoire with collection of highly focused songs. Flashes of guitar used as utterances in verses, 80s pastiche synths in the choruses of 'Crushing Limbs' - a modesty pervades these recordings, but a maturity too in their arrangements. These are post-punk lullabies, highly professional sweetheart songs - stories that move far beyond the endearing nu-folk that marked her early releases. The album can move from twee to heavy in instants, there's a control in the record's mood throughout. A reverb heavy clean guitar slides a draining chord progression in the left channel of 'Hatchet's' chorus, and the songs mood shifts in degrees.

Lyrically too, the album sees Anni Rossi moving beyond conventions of her past into a more lucid, compelling storytelling. Biography and retelling gives way to wholly formed narratives 'The Fight' and pained stabs at resolution in 'Frame Me Right', a song which reveals an honesty and vulnerability not seen before. If this song is open, torn, at wit's end- then 'The Fight' is the mood formed of conviction. It's irresistible beat is almost neu-disco, the driven shimmy and mirroring synths lending her vocals a defiant, aggressive quality. Elsewhere, 'Candyland' is a toying call and answer verse that leads to nostalgia-tearing chorus. ''Play it cool'', she recalls, ''love is the only rule''.

The album closes with a song I first heard back at that gig in '05. 'Safety of Objects' is a majestic and upbeat pop-number, it's strings picked as if her viola were standing in for a 90's grunge band. The song was first recorded for one of those 'hand out at gigs' cds, an acoustic viola performance rich with glee. This version loses none of that original's curiosity or verve, a chirpy drumpad sequence and oceanic synth here complementing lyrics which affirm the physical nature of things. The album's final song might well be it's most revealing, symbolic as it is of the record's whole process. Though her songwriting aesthetic might have matured and grown in confidence, her voice is still remarkably, and pleasingly, her own. --Amir Adhamy, The 405

1. Candyland
2. Crushing Limbs
3. Hatchet
4. Sandstorm
5. Switchblade
6. Texan Plains
7. Land Majestic
8. Frame Me Right
9. The Fight
10. Cha Cha Cha
11. Safety Of Objects

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Heavy Meadow
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