Anais Mitchell – Hymns For The Exiled

 

You can be forgiven if you haven’t heard of Anais Mitchell before now. Even though she released her third album last year in America its only now that her sophomore effort “Hymns For The Exiled” has been slated for a UK pressing. It might sound like a contradiction in terms to describe her voice as both delicate and powerful but it truly is a remarkable combination of the two. With a real sense of the poetic to her lyrics she possesses a timeless quality that many other contemporary singer/songwriters female or otherwise are sadly lacking. The album opens with “Before The Eyes Of Storytelling Girls” and as she plucks meticulously at her guitar her voice chimes out the lyrics “I could tell you stories like the government tells lies” and your instantly hit by the fact that she’s not your run of the mill artist. Straight away you get a sense that there is something more substantial to be explored within the album as it unfolds other than just her obvious musical ability.
There’s a beautiful touching childlike quality to the timber of her voice reminiscent of the sound of harp playing pixie Joanna Newson. The clarity as she sings is astonishing, your ears prick up and you can’t fail to take notice of every single syllable of every single word that floats out of her mouth. “1984” follows on perfectly and as the guitar jangles under her vocals if you hadn’t already fallen in love then its time to give up the fight and embrace her out of the ordinary talent. This album doesn’t have any tracks on it that you would dare to describe as poor or filler, it’s skilfully crafted and intoxicating at every turn. “Orion” is a touching story of the death of a drummer from her hometown and mentions the untimely demise of other rock legends Buddy Holly and Gram Parsons. “I Wear Your Dress” unravels a tale of hand me down clothes and nostalgia while “Cosmic American” sees her voice at its most haunting as she sings “I’m a live wire, I’m a short-wave radio” and you believe she’s somehow taking the form of these inanimate objects.

Anais is a storyteller who is obviously very intelligent and has a firm grasp on current events and the political climate that surrounds her. This intelligence and political commentary shines through on songs like “Quecreek Flood” and “Two Kids”. The later contains a verse sung in Iraqi, which is not only interesting but also extremely beautiful. If you like the Alt Country/ Folk Americana sound of the likes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings then Anais Mitchell will be your new favourite find of the year. Gifted and unbelievably likeable her songs are soaked in understated brilliance. All that’s left to say is that it’s about time that this stunning album got released in the UK.

Ross Cunningham

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