It took me about 60 seconds to understand that Anaïs Mitchell’s new album was ‘for me’. There’s a reverb heavy guitar, a gentle piano refrain and then a snatch of what I would say was Anais Mitchell’s haunting vocal. “Over Brooklyn Bridge in a taxi / You and me in the back seat.” Oh yes, I thought. All I really knew about Anaïs Mitchell in advance was what I’d heard of her on the Bonny Light Horseman album back in 2020 (an album I only came to because of its relation to Fruit Bats and The Shins and the patronage of various Bon Iver / National sorts).
By the time we hit track 2, ‘Bright Star’, Mitchell started to remind me of other people – Shawn Colvin circa ‘A Few Small Repairs’, Mary Chapin Carpenter circa ‘Stones in the Road’. Which, given that both of those records are getting on for being a couple of decades old, probably tells you that Mitchell isn’t necessarily doing anything groundbreaking or original here. She’s a singer-songwriter who enjoys a certain level of production that may be off-putting to some people.
Hold on a minute, though. Don’t dismiss Mitchell in your dash back to the latest Slowthai record. “Oh familiar chest of joys,” she sings on ‘Revenant’. Yes, there is aural comfort here. This is not an album that will assault you with dissonance. Not a record that will make you work hard to understand what it has to offer you. The warmth on offer, though, is a pleasure if you can let pleasure in. Listen to a song like ‘On Your Way (Felix Song)’ – if you like Lucinda Williams or Laura Marling, man, this is one for you. “No regrets and no mistakes / you get one take / you’re on your way.”
Yes, one of her albums was turned into a Broadway show (and given that show’s success there’s talk of another Broadway show too), and yes we think you could muster an argument for Mitchell being a sort of Taylor Swift for a person of a certain age, but for all that it’s an album that is worming its way into my life. There’s a spareness here not a million miles away from something like Paul Buchanan’s ‘Mid Air’. I’d heartily say if any of these reference points chime with you, you’ll get a big kick out of this.
Words by Pete Wild