Sunday, 6 January 2013

Annie Dressner - Strangers Who Knew Each Other's Names


Singer-songwriters have never been far and few between. When the elite combination of a strong vocalist that can actually pen a decent song enters the fray, they become the needle in the haystack that is found using a metal detector. Singer-songwriters hardly ever get picked up by these metal detectors, so we just have to trust these music detectors that are found scattered over the internet. It's not unusual to see the odd singer-songwriter making it big, I mean look at Jake Bugg... Look at Ed Sheeran... Proof that it doesn't take education or a good voice to earn the big bucks and be featured by the UK's top magazines. The UK has a strong acoustic history and it's one that will never die out because singer-songwriters are continuously cropping up wherever you go. From the broad villages in Scotland to the tube stations of London, folk, as you may call it, lives on.

Annie Dressner moved from the big apple in the states to the cold and wet landscapes of Great Britain. She performed at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2012, sharing a stage with would you believe, Jake Bugg, oh how an endorsement from Noel Gallagher can change your life. There's quite a contrasting styles between these singer-songwriters in that Dressner doesn't try and emulate country songs that should be left in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Instead, Dressner has a lengthy catalogue of her own person stories, delivered in a somewhat fashionable style on her debut album Strangers Who Knew Each Other's Names. It doesn’t take long before the alarm bells start ringing and Dressner's voice starts singing. Dressner sounds like an imported version of Joanna Newsom crushed in to Kate Nash. Her voice is bright, artistic and above all it's warm. The opening track 'Fly' is reminiscent of spring time. Dressner has a strong voice and almost reads her lyrics on top of a reverberated piano and simplistic acoustic guitar riff. It trumps anything fellow female singer-songwriter Lucy Rose has done on her debut album.

'September' starts off strong with Dressner singing: "I wandered past a million times, hearing through the waters and seeing the one thing I never leave behind." Dressner uses light imagery to put across her story. I can only imagine the many references on this track refer to her relocation from New York to England and a relationship. Likewise on 'Cigarette', Dressner sings: "So I smoked a cigarette so I could taste you in my breathe." An inside story, one of the many Dressner reveals in huge doses as the album progresses. More and more of Dressner's personal life is revealed, and the emotion can be felt and is reciprocated by the style of guitar playing, the style of structure and the volume changes. It's a stand out track with a killer chorus and beautiful instrumentation, the best on the album.

"I felt more love than I’ve felt in years, it's nice to know that it still appears sometimes," sings Dresser on the titular track 'Strangers Who Knew Each Other's Names'. The romance theme appears throughout this track, as Dressner follows up the above lyric with: "And I know you felt it too." / "There's nothing else more beautiful, than being here with you." A charming track with soft, velvet instrumentation and an ear-catching guitar solo towards the end. And this isn't the only track where Dressner is talking love and happiness. 'Come Back' is a heart-wrenching track with a double tracked vocal and a slow tempo. Dressner adds her emotional vocal to the sad-oriented instrumentation that ends as it begins, backing the story.

This theme continues with one of my favourite tracks, 'When I See Stars'. Dressner delivers her melancholic vocal with culture references and idioms at the heart of the lyrics. The piano is intriguing and brings imagery of a late night sunset, turned clear night sky with the guitar structure and light finger picking. The sixth track 'With You' features an organ riff at the very heart of the tracks core. Dressner's vocal is patient, smooth and emotive - the slowest vocal on the album. There are little variations in structure and the chorus is clear, but it lacks a sort of remembrance compared to other tracks on the album.

'Hardy Boys' has a faster tempo than many of Dressner's other tracks. The strings are a welcomed inclusion and sound fresh over the quick acoustic guitar riff and danceable bass. The track has a comical theme with Dressner adding: "I'm writing this song as a courtesy, a friend asked me as a joke." It's a sharp contrast to the earlier tracks, as is the following track 'Find Me'. It opens with an electric guitar and a bright percussion intro at its core, bringing comparisons to Camera Obscura, Belle & Sebastian and just about every indie pop band under the sun. Again, the track is far more happier and gutsy than the starting few tracks, though Dressner never loses her charm or meaning in this track, or the previous.

The tenth track 'Brooklyn' could very well be one of Dressner's older songs that she wrote and performed in New York. It's a joy to hear an artist sing about their home or a place they cherish deeply, Dressner does it well. 'How Am I Supposed To Be?' ends the album in a beautiful minimalistic way. The listener is exposed to quite simply Dressner's voice and her guitar work. The music is admirable and the vocal overdub adds structure to the track. Dressner's way of ending her debut album is fascinating. She starts with several key love themed tracks, goes through a slow and sad period and then hits the listener with two fast paced tracks, then ends with two of her strongest songs in 'Brooklyn' and the self-questioning 'How Am I Supposed To Be?' Strangers Who Knew Each Other's Names is an album for the buttoned up cosmopolitan that isn't afraid of listening to a singer-songwriter.
~Eddie

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