While recording a guest spot for Okkervil River’s Black Shoe Boy, Amy Annelle discovered the perfect compliment for The Places’ newest batch of eerie Americana sound collages in producer Brian Beattie. The resulting six songs make up a little over half of the new album Songs for Creeps alongside significantly embellished self-recordings and highlights of a recording session with Jay Pellicci (Deerhoof). The finished product is an album of adventurously crafted songs that still maintain their raw integrity.
What starts off as a woman and her guitar is disassembled, experimented with, added to, and recombined extreme makeover style. “A thousand bodies buried and no marker,” Annelle soothes on four track cassette over rustic instrumentation juxtaposed with shortwave radio and field recordings in My Weary Eye. Like a forced smile in a wedding photo or a kiss with eyes open, these electronic adornments create an underlying sense of uneasiness that is quietly disconcerting behind the engaging warmth of Annelle’s voice and the predominantly acoustic instruments. Worse and Wise is penetrating. As Annelle reflects upon the return of a lover, savior--or both--who knows about her “nameless ache,” an eastern tinged ambient vibration competes with and finally overwhelms her crisp, delicate picking.
Annelle and Beattie display the best tag-team effort in The Natural Arc. It’s epic, and not just because it is over six minutes long. The duo uses an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach on a musical trip to three distinct destinations. Not only do the field recordings return, but Annelle and Beattie make use of a toy drum kit, but also stuff like Vibraslaps, Maestro Rhythm Kings, and an electronic sampler from India called the Raagini.
The sense of adventure in her choices of instrument and noisemaker is matched only by her lyrics and penchant for storytelling. While a lap steel guitar elevates the straightforward twang of the alt-country Gold to Green, it’s her imagery and descriptiveness that make Mercy Me’s lonely “blond lady” or the date with The Damn Insane Asylum’s “bellicose photographer” in Manhattan seem part of your own personal history. The Lion’s Share is an authentic, bare-bones, country cryer that reveals haunting overtones and lustful, sinister lyrics, while Such as the Earth is a Tolstoy influenced Bron-y-aur stomper.
Never before has Amy Annelle’s alter ego, The Places, been such a fitting moniker. On Songs For Creeps, it’s plain to see that Annelle has been around. She has hopes, regrets, and most of all, stories. However, what really separates Annelle from her counterparts is not the places she’s been, but the places where she takes her songs, or more importantly, where these songs may take you.