Anna St. Louis - If Only There Was A River

by Nathan Fidler Rating:7 Release Date:2018-10-12
Anna St. Louis - If Only There Was A River
Anna St. Louis - If Only There Was A River

After the Californian impressed with a cassette of songs, it was never going to be long before Anna St. Louis would have her first full-length album. That album is If Only There Was A River, which takes her folky leanings and expands upon them.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a mostly quiet and considered album, rich in textures. ‘Water’ is the opening track and features hypnotic picking with drawn-out violins in the background. Later on, picking up an electric guitar for ‘Desert’, she lets notes ring and chords decay, spacing everything out sleepily.

That’s something she does with her lyrics as well, as heard on ‘Understand’. She’s in no rush to explain or express herself, it’s almost as if you’ve hitched a ride on her slow wagon in some sort of modern Western movie. Her voice can sound songbird-sweet or deeper and more assertive depending on the mood, but both make for easy listening.

Comparisons with First Aid Kit would be unjust, since this a more intimate affair, though the sound itself would certainly lend itself to fans of that band, applying wistful strings in a way which harks back to golden age of folk and country music.

The general, overriding emotion you get from Anna is not necessarily uplifting, but it isn’t quite dark either. On ‘The Bells’ she discusses a “shadow looming”, suggesting there is something which cannot be shifted in her slightly melancholy mood, confirmed by “the feeling is deep, the feeling is wide”. ‘Mean Love’ meanwhile, tackles the age-old classic of pursuing someone who clearly isn’t good for you, but little is revealed about the nature of what constitutes “mean”.

There’s an excellent line of fiddle which serves as an undercurrent on ‘Hello’, never getting carried away, but chipping into the lethargy with some levity. These spots of multi-instrumentalism by Oliver Hill (such as the short but thick organ keys on ‘River’) help to add extra dimensions to what might be more straightforward folk, singer-songwriter fare.

With a captivating voice and a slow, hushed approach to songs, there will certainly be an audience for Anna St. Louis to capitalise on right now, but not a huge one.

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