Image © Columbia Records 2004
(10 December 2004) It's got to the stage now where, whenever I see the term 'production team' on a major label album by a young, female singer-songwriter, my heart sinks. I tend to listen in hope more than expectation. A native of Glendora, California, 20 year old Anna Nalick's first album Wreck Of The Day is released on Columbia in January 2005. However, the production team to help this relatively inexperienced singer though the studio process does include Eric Rosse, best known for his work on the early Tori Amos albums, and Anna sites both Tori and Fiona Apple among her influences. Two fine artists. I perk up a little and put the disc in the player.
The opening track "Breathe (2 AM)"--also the first single from the album--is really beautiful. And it's in 3:4 rather than the usual 4:4 opener. The song-writing is good too. It's a stunning way to start an album. The second track, "Citadel," isn't bad either--a great stadium rock type chorus and a big production job--lots of those big, fuzzy power chords currently in favour. Okay, it could be Avril Lavigne--actually, is it Avril? It's good anyway, so who cares!
The next track is "Paper Bag." Isn't that a song title on Fiona Apple's second album? This song isn't a patch on that. Nice enough, but if you haven't heard the chorus before, you've certainly heard a hundred very like it. The title track follows–-and it's bland--there's no other word for it. It's basically a 3:4 county song and even the 'production team' seem at a loss to know what to do with it."Satellite" is another song in exactly the same ilk as "Paper Bag" – and I mean exactly. And the formula is repeated again on "In The Rough."
Some of the song-writing is above average; "In My Head," for example, but others, like "Bleed," pass you straight by. The arrangement of the final song, 'Consider This' is so similar to Fiona Apple's "On The Bound" (the opening track from When The Pawn ... ) that it almost sounds like a tribute track, though it totally lacks Jon Brion's production brio and Fiona's unique delivery.
Despite her record company's claim that Anna is "one of a new breed of singer-songwriters for this young century," what we have here is another in a long line of generic, major-label, female singer/song-writers albums. Some of these are lifted above the pack by exceptional song-writing, or a vocal delivery that sears the soul – or, in the early days at least, by imaginative arrangements and production--which often meant leaving things out rather than adding them in. By those criteria, this album doesn't make the grade.
I would love to hear Anna's rough demos for these songs, to see what they sounded like before the 'team' got hold of them. Some of her writing is interesting and deserves better that the musically cliché-ridden, bog-standard 'pop-rock' arrangements they've suffered here. I hope, in the future, Anna finds a producer to match the best of her songs--someone who will accentuate, rather than bury, that which makes her different from other artists.
The album gets four stars because in one sense, there's nothing wrong with it at all. It's competent, production is clean, Anna sings well, and there are enough good songs to more than offset the weaker tracks. If you like Avril, Alanis, Melanie Doane, Meredith Brooks, Natalie Imbruglia etc, and want more, you will love this album. Whilst it may not be in the top division of that ilk, it can hold its own with most, and I'm sure it will sell by the truckload. Which I guess, if you're Columbia, is the object of the exercise. If you want music with a hint of originality,
then I suggest you look elsewhere. But maybe track down
Anna in a few years time. There's something in there worth waiting for.--Jamie Field