Some artists burst onto the scene early in their career with solo work that helps define their creative sound and opens up doors to more lucrative work with other musicians. For Michigan artist Anna Burch, however, the path to creative agency in her songwriting has been a long and culminating journey.
Burch has performed in several Michigan bands since she was 18 years old, for over a decade now. From contributing backing vocals to folk band Frontier Ruckus to co-fronting the more recent project Failed Flowers, her talents have been actively involved in the state’s indie music scene.
Now with her first solo album, “Quit the Curse,” Burch seems poised to prove her voice is worth being heard front and center instead of being relegated to the supporting roles that have previously defined her touring career.
“Quit the Curse” is a deceptively mellow album. The warm and gently submersing instrumentals coupled with Burch’s smooth and lulling vocal harmonies hide lyrics rife with anxiety, self-doubt, and bitter anecdotes from the artist’s personal life. This is a deeply personal album – the ever-present and dominating pronoun “I” does battle against past lovers, childhood trauma and the artist’s own personal insecurities.
On “2 Cool 2 Care,” Burch laments the indifference and rejection of an ex as she grapples with how best to define what she wants from the relationship.
“Did I freak you out? Oh what’s that about? Tell me. / From what I can see reciprocity is boring, but I’m / tired of unrequited love stories,” Burch sings monotonously, conjuring up feelings of bewilderment, anxiety and denial about a relationship that remains irritatingly elusive and unfixable.
This theme of unattainable connection and deadened romance continues in “Tea-Soaked Letter,” a song that showcases Burch’s consuming desire to be taken seriously, an inability to fake her emotions and a desire for genuine communication.
There is an undercurrent of paranoia that cuts through the slow and sweet riffs of “Quit the Curse.” Burch looks inward in an effort to formulate a response to her frustrating personal relationships and projects that dread and feeling of unease onto her interactions with others.
“Asking 4 a Friend” contains some of the most infectious hooks on the album, buoyantly carrying a dark tale of drug use, in which Burch’s perceived disconnection from her friend exposes the fear she has of transparency and vulnerability.
“You’re not sentimental, but I’ve seen you cry / In the hotel room when we’re high / So why do I feel so exposed? / When I’m the one who’s more composed,” Burch sings.
Doom and gloom is not the sole mantra of this album, and the lyrical content of the nine songs swings wildly among the artist’s varied emotions as she struggles to find her identity amidst a sea of solipsistic stories.
“Self-destruction is so played out / So is self-pity and self-doubt / Let’s try to be OK,” Burch sings on “What I Want,” a hopeful and upbeat song that seems to rail against the anxiety pervading previous songs on the album.
It is difficult to define the mood conveyed by an album so contradictory. Smooth and sugar-coated, Burch’s even-toned singing voice lulls the listener into a sense of security that her lyrics largely lack. One thing is for certain, though – Anna Burch has proven she has a lot to say as an artist, in all the messy, constructive lyricism of a newly forming identity.
Rating: B+ Smooth vocal harmonies craft a dark and compelling tale of anxiety.