Quality vocal and musical arrangements provide a great frame for this fine set of songs.
‘In The Air’ is Anna St Louis’ second full-length album following 2018’s ‘If Only There Was A River’. The intervening years saw her working with the late David Berman’s Purple Mountains project before moving from Los Angeles to upstate New York where she lived in a small isolated cabin in the mountains while working a day job at a local hotel. There she wrote the eleven songs comprising ‘In The Air’. Recording of the album took place in Los Angeles with Jarvis Taveniere (of Woods and St Louis’ band mate in Purple Mountains) producing over two extended sessions in 2021.
Musical support for the recordings was provided by LA-based musicians, from a variety of indie bands, including Taveniere, Jess Williamson and Kacey Johansing, Oliver Hill, Keven Lareau, Josh Adams and Alex Fischel. The songs themselves reflect the quiet introspective environment in which they were composed and tend to the contemplative.
Musically, the album presents the songs in a variety of different styles from the modern countrypolitan sound which will remind the listener of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon (such as ‘Trace’) to Laura Nyro-esque urban jazz-soul (for example, ‘Morning’) as well as the sophisticated pop sound favoured by Woods (as in the penultimate track ‘Into The Deep’).
The performances also manage to cross styles in the same song. A good example is the opening track ‘Trace’ which starts in a languid style with short verses and choruses, before the middle eight kicks in with much longer lines which creates a sense of movement with a violin taking over from pedal steel as the lead instrument.
St Louis achieves a similar effect on the closing track, ‘Sea Of Glass’, whose intro has a folky vibe reminiscent of Dylan’s ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ – you can even hear the squeak of the chord changes – before the strings and St Louis’ vocal take it off into some delicious chamber-pop territory.
St Louis’ voice and the imaginative arrangements are the twin highlights of this record and succeed in drawing out the underlying feel of the songs. It will be interesting to see how she translates them to a live setting.