Album Review: Anna Burch – ‘If You’re Dreaming’
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On her sophomore solo album, If You’re Dreaming, Anna Burch has cast off the restless, 60’s folk-pop tinge that colored her 2018 debut Quit the Curse. On If You’re Dreaming, Burch has pushed her sound into more sparse, jazzy territory. Burch spent a few months working on the album in the Catskills, and the result is a record as tranquil and vast as the mountain range itself.
At their best, the songs on If You’re Dreaming strip away any unnecessary layers of complexity and let Burch’s talents shine through. This is especially true of “Jacket,” a traipsing and even-keeled tune in the albums first half. Burch is accompanied by toned-down guitar and percussion that add a rainy, noir atmosphere. “I found a Polaroid in the pocket / Am I paranoid to believe that / You were the one who took it?” You can almost picture it being sung in a jazz club. She’s relaying us a story by showing rather than telling – doing a lot with a little.
The album’s second single “Not So Bad” exemplifies the relaxed feeling carried throughout. From the music’s light sway, complete with a charming horn section, to Burch’s dulcet delivery of the simple mantra of its chorus “it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad,” it lulls the listener.
This calming effect can occasionally cross the line into lullaby territory, though. While the musicianship never veers from being sharp, the music itself does begin to feel a bit too sleepy. Had some of the lively energy of its predecessor spilled into the tracks on If You’re Dreaming, it certainly would have gone against its theme, but might help to differentiate some of the album’s many downtempo tracks. Songs like “Every Feeling” and the two instrumental breaks are done a disservice. While they have interesting facets to them, the songs begin to bleed into each other, too cohesive for their own good. This could be helped by some tweaks to the sequencing, but there are just too few moments that play with the tempo.
When Burch drops the dreamy for more grounded bliss, like on “Ask Me To,” it helps snap you to attention. Most notably, the song’s guitar tone is less sweet, and trades in the gliding effect for a rhythmic loop. Its drums hit with the starkness of a woodblock, and ripple out. It’s hypnotic in a way that feels different, and more captivating.
If You’re Dreaming is neither a step forward nor step back for Burch but a step to the side. It’s on par with her prior work but is a different beast entirely. It knows what it’s trying to do, and manages to achieve its aims at almost every juncture. Sometimes though, a little too well.
Eric Bennett // @seething_coast
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