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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
|2. Crushing Limbs|
|6. Texan Plains|
|7. Land Majestic|
|8. Frame Me Right|
|9. The Fight|
|10. Cha Cha Cha|
|11. Safety Of Objects|