November 22nd, 2021 7pm Stage 2
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Anna Ash writes songs of profound, startling, sensuous insight. Call it country, call it rock’n’roll, call it pulling off the road somewhere between Silver Lake and Bakersfield just to roll a cigarette, kick at the gravel, and brood. The nine songs on L.A. Flame — recorded during the summer of 2018 and released in September 2019 — are sparse and warm, tightly arranged and shrewdly observed. It’s a tumultuous record — mellow then volatile, withdrawn then confrontational, full of revelations, recriminations, revisions, and revivals. “This isn’t the first time I let me spirit die,” she sings knowingly on “Required Ending.”
In January of 2022 she’ll release her fourth album, and first with Oklahoma indie-label Black Mesa Records. Sleeper is infused with an emotional intelligence that conjures nostalgia with the memory of a middle school boyfriend’s cologne and evokes a tenderness specific to L.A. in an evening full of car alarms, fireworks, and the rare California lilac. But she knows, too, that such knowledge will not spare her from heartache, from the weight of the past, from the wildfire drawing ever closer. Rueful, wise, sardonic, Sleeper plays like a Sally Rooney book if the novelist could palm-mute a Silvertone and launch her voice into cathartic falsettos.
Ash’s songs regularly feature on soundtracks (Billions, Masters of Sex) and curated playlists (Fresh Folk, Noir) and her fans will recognize that trademark textured guitar and soaring voice. On Sleeper, though, the tight pocket of previous albums gives way to more spacious arrangements and atmospherics — buoyant keys, group harmonies, pedal steel and horns. Ash recorded the album in two sessions: The first in November 2020, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic; the second in April 2021, as the world started to re-open and gathering a band in a studio became a more viable option. The first took place in the Catskills, the second back in LA, both recorded live to tape. And you hear it on the album — there’s an urgency, an immediacy to the album, as if Ash is processing this perilous moment (and all the ones before) in real-time. Sleeper, then, is a soundtrack of sorts, trenchant songs to score the moments when memories play life movies and the fire is at your door.
-Connor Towne O'Neill