Monday, February 18, 2008

Anais Mitchell – The Brightness

Do you remember going to Halloween parties as a kid? If you have, you surely remember reaching your hand into a dark box filled with cold spaghetti, skinned grapes, or something else disgusting. What made those boxes so fun was the mystery of what may be inside.

New music can be looked at in the same way, the CD case becomes the proverbial “dark box” whose contents are unbeknownst to you. As I put The Brightness by Anais Mitchell into my computer, I was excited and filled with hopes that what may lie inside my dark box would be a new favorite artist

In many aspects, I was not disappointed. Anais Mitchell makes music centered around acoustic guitar and her unique vocal style, which is often harsh and nasaly. Comparisons to early Jewel material come to mind. This would probably be a deterrent if Mitchell’s voice did not contrast so well in the upper range, sounding sweet and smooth as it tackled the high notes on the album with ease.

Another strong point of The Brightness is the number of seemingly unusual instruments featured throughout the album. “Of a Friday Night” has a distinct lounge feel, as a result of the acoustic guitar being traded for a grand piano. The saxophone on “Namesake” is nothing short of brilliant, and left me wanting to hear it incorporated more. “Shenendoah” features a banjo, giving a tinge of country to the song. Mitchell’s vocals on the track also introduce a hint of gospel into the mix.

Unfortunately, The Brightness starts to grow stale towards the middle of the record. Mitchell’s vocal melodies start to become repetitive and, despite interesting instrumentation, the songs start to blend together and sound the same. Many of these songs have no clearly defined verses or choruses. As a result, there is not much to that stands out. This album may be great as background music, but when left to stand on its own, it has a tough time.

Despite the songs all being well executed, I found myself bored very frequently. The Brightness by Anais Mitchell successfully grabbed my attention, but throughout the course of the album, my auditory attention deficit crept back into control.


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