Anna Tivel “Outsiders”

Mama Bird Recording Co, 2022

A new album and a new record company mean Anna Tivel is ready to take her music to a larger audience.

Pacific North West singer-songwriter Anna Tiivel shakes off the dust of the pandemic by seeking inspiration from 2019’s ‘The Question’, which confirmed her status as an outstanding and innovative songwriter, for her first batch of new songs in three years.  She has again worked with producer and multi-instrumentalist Shane Leonard and engineer Brian Joseph and is releasing ‘Outsiders’ on Portland, Oregon’s Mama Bird Recording Co. Anna Tiivel’s songs are finely crafted and explore the currents of human emotions and interactions. Anna Tivel may have looked back for inspiration, but her views take in the whole Earth as experienced by the first man on the moon to the deep personal individual experiences of her characters which includes substance abuse and crime. Authenticity is aided by the fact that ‘Outsiders’ was largely recorded live to tape in Rock Island, Illinois.

The title track ‘Outsiders’ was inspired by Anna Tiivel’s viewing of a documentary on the ’69 moon landing, and she picked up on the fact that at that moment the whole world was unified in its wonder. Reverb adds to the otherworldly impression while the lyrics are finely crafted and bear repeated listens.  For ‘Black Umbrella’ inspiration is taken from a bystander’s intervention in a small town robbery to consider how simple good intentions aren’t always enough to break the conventions of society that prevent people been seen as they really are. Ethereal is a word that springs to mind with ‘Astrovan’, but the live to tape recording removes any risk of this sounding too new-age as Anna Tivel explores the challenges of developing a relationship beyond the initial attraction. ‘Heroes’ use a relatively lively tune that considers the misuse of alcohol and other addictions in the artistic community. Anna Tivel extends her empathy to the animal world and how the human condition needs to rise above its more basic instincts in ‘Two Dark Horses’, which was included on her pandemic album of self-covers 2021’s ‘Blue World’ in a piano lead arrangement and here it is in a guitar and vocal led arrangement with a background wash of keyboards and piano. While it will be up to the listener to decide which version they prefer, the quality of the song shines through both arrangements. While you would never accuse Anna Tivel of rocking out, that doesn’t mean her arrangements are all similar, and on the love song ‘Royal Blue’ she adds a varied and interesting percussion track that reflects on very deep long-term personal relationships. With ‘Ruins’ the underlying issues associated with saying you are sorry are explored and how it can expose someone’s real self, which can be a very hard thing to do. The main themes of ‘Outsiders’ are continued in ‘The Dial’ which explores loneliness from the perspective of a touring musician whose job is to expose their inner feelings to a new audience every night. Anna Tivel’s vocals and an interesting rhythm track are high in the mix of ‘Invisible Man’ which reflects on how everyone is close to insanity even if day to day everything seems fine. The challenges that society puts on boy and girl stereotypes through the media and how it can lead to anger and hurt is the subject of ‘The Basement’. The final track ensures ‘Outsiders’ ends on a positive note with ‘The Bell’ which is about watching a loved one fight to move themselves out of a dark place to the accompaniment of a simple two-guitar track.

Anna Tivel’s career is at a significant point which could see her breakout to a wider audience having developed a solid cult following with the detail and complexity of her lyrics and the beauty of her vocals. Signing with Mama Bird Recording Co should help with developing the promotion and support of ‘Outsiders’, and Anna Tivel has managed to record an album that will be enjoyed by her existing fans, and more importantly, should help win new ones.  Her lyrics are truly wonderful, full of detail and meaning, and they certainly deserve and need repeated listening to reveal their true character and meaning. Recording live to tape with a group of friends means that the music has a vitality that adds the final dimension to the overall listening experience.


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About Martin Johnson 241 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.

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