Amy Annelle is a gifted songwriter and performer: daringly original, unaffected and affecting, but all the while answering to some ancient, spooky muse. And on her latest, Call It Sleep, she has reunited with The Places to create a devastating, gorgeous wreck of an album. The ensemble is made up of Annelle’s musical allies who also play in The Thermals, Death Cab for Cutie, Last of the Juanitas, Maplewood, 31 Knots, Grails, E*Rock, Swords Project and the Decemberists. In this group of Northwest eccentrics, alchemy picks up where chemistry usually leaves off. The Places prove the perfect translators on Annelle’s latest songwriting trip: down murky tunnels lit with escape and addiction, rootlessness, betrayal, and empathy for the enemy.
Annelle?s two solo albums, and her first with The Places (The Autopilot Knows You Best), won universal praise for their deceptive gentleness and familiarity that gave way to darker, starker truths. And though the last Places album might have been called hopeful, Call It Sleep finds the group truly haunted, exploring deeper palettes of improvisation, psychedelia and found sounds. The album is a homegrown affair, recorded at Portland?s own Type Foundry (M. Ward, Little Wings, Decemberists) and mixed by Larry Crane (Quasi, Elliot Smith, Sleater-Kinney) at Jackpot Recording.
Call It Sleep employs a jazz-inspired lineup (upright bass and violin, vibrophone, piano, brushed drums and trumpet), but The Places are too weird to stick to one musical genre. Instead they wander wide-eyed through 60?s folk-rock, futuristic murder ballads and intuitively shifting time signatures. The arrangements elaborate on Annelle?s dusky narratives, while allowing her silky, almost in-your-head vocals to deliver the fatal blows. An extra treat is an interpretation of The Dreamies 1973 underground gem ?Program Ten? that breathes with despair and alienation, and perhaps a distant beacon of hope.
Fans of the dark and lucid songwriting of Black Heart Procession, Cat Power or Dirty Three will surely feel right at home here. What unfolds in the course of Call It Sleep is akin to Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers or Nick Drake?s Bryter Later: a beautifully battered, subtly detailed map of the dark side.
Dead Reckoning 4:17
Birds Are Waking 6:26
What I Wouldn’t Do For You 3:57
Travel Light 6:16
Clean Starts 3:00
Ruined New Life 5:18
Program Ten 8:46
‘Til The Death 6:05