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June 11th, 2014 JEFF ROSENBERG | Album Reviews
 

Album Review: Anna Tivel

Before Machines (Fluff and Gravy)

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[SINGER-SONGWRITER] Anna Tivel, who previously performed and recorded as Anna and the Underbelly, is clearly curious to define herself, and has the metaphors to get there. On second-album opener “Five Dollar Bill,” she announces: “I am a rocking chair on the porch outside/ I am a stone skipping across the night/ I am a five dollar bill.” On Before Machines’ second song, “Map of the Stars,” she is “just a weathervane in the hazy summertime/ I’m the bluest bird looking to land.” She’s just warming up to the third track, “One Thousand & One,” which offers a litany of identities: “I am a mission bell ringing in the dark…dirty water in the wishing well…the orange glow of the sun on the hill” and many more. Tivel’s self-exploration is aided by a few sensitive players, including Jeffrey Martin and his gently empathic backing vocals. The album’s best songs are practically duets between Tivel’s voice—think of a savvier, raspier Joanna Newsom—and Taylor Kingman’s crisp, succinct electric-guitar lines. On the album’s back stretch, Tivel’s songs retread melodies and vocal cadences at an unrelentingly draggy pace. Last track “I’ll Be Home” finally makes an impression to equal the earlier songs, with some band members gamely trying to syncopate their sound into something resembling an upbeat closer, though they don’t quite carry the day.


SEE IT: Anna Tivel plays the Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., with Mike Coykendall and Vacilando, on Thursday, June 12. 8 pm. $8. All ages.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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