Anna Ash's sophomore record, Floodlights, is a test of tension. Tension between her sun-baked concrete present in Los Angeles, and the faint and frozen nostalgia of her northern Michigan past. Nights spent waitressing and days in the studio — love spent lonely, in a city choked with people. A lifestyle that destroys your life, and that freakish resilience that keeps you breathing. Her voice holds a rare type of hesitation, careful not to reveal too much of itself too soon, while her lyrics urgently, precisely, pleadingly, throw it all on the table, bare, under a blazing white cold light.
It’s major keys though — it’s amp buzz, tape warmth, mid-tempo back-beats — it’s kind of rock and roll, or country, or maybe even folk. Tracked live at a friend's studio in Northfield, Minnesota, and mixed with Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Cass McCombs) in Los Angeles, Floodlights features Joe Dart on bass (Vulfpeck), Julian Allen (Borns) on drums, James Cornelison and Brett Farkas (Aimee Mann, Lord Huron) on guitar, and Joey Dosik (Mocky, Nikka Costa) and Theo Katzman (Vulfpeck) on additional vocals, piano, and guitar.
The tape crackles under Ash's sometimes soaring, sometimes aching soprano. You can hear her fingernails against her Silvertone as the band settles into the first track. There’s no click track, no auto-tune, no string section – just a band in a room playing songs. It’s raw, simple, heartbreaking, and startlingly honest.
It’s a record seriously indebted to Ash’s childhood spent listening to Emmylou Harris and Bonnie Raitt, filtered through the lens of indie-folk contemporaries like Feist and Sharon Van Etten. Each tune's a carefully considered gift to the listener, at once spacious and tight, forgiving and fraught. It all comes to reflect Ash's life, a mirror to the sadness and joy of growing up in our strange present.