In 1934, Henry Roth, a young and gifted writer, penned a novel about coming of age in a Jewish immigrant broken family. Because of the depression the book quickly disappeared, even though it was released to rave reviews. Flash forward thirty years when the book is `rediscovered’ and republished to even bigger rave reviews, including a front page review in the New York Times Book Review, a first for any paperback. Since then the book has sold millions of copies throughout the world and has been given near classic status. The story revolves around David, a ten year-old boy who is dealing with his own views of his world through personal turmoil and phobic eyes. Flash forward again forty more years and you’ll find songwriter Amy Annelle’s personal tribute to the book, her quiet and pensive view of her own world. Both the album and the book share the same title, Call it Sleep.
Calling her `collective’ of musicians, mostly from her hometown of Portland, The Places, Amy Annelle has created an album of graceful quietude. Between the title of the record, the label name, and the hushed tones of the music actually created, it’s a wonder that the record didn’t come packaged with a bottle of sedatives. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just that there’s a whole lot of nappy time hints happening.
In this second album release, Annelle is joined by members of the Decemberists, Norfolk & Western, Death Cab for Cutie, the Swords Project, The Thermals, and Maplewood, among others. Even with this bevy of guest stars, Amy is the center of the show. The presence of the musicians sitting in is barely felt. Sounding like Liz Phair after a Xanax, Annelle deftly and softly wends her way through emotional and vivid lyrics concerning all manner of topics.
Most of the songs on the record are backed by slow, hollow, jazz-like snare drum, piano and acoustic guitar. Annelle’s voice is an instrument in itself, delicately weaving its way between the notes and leaving the subtle impression of peace, despite the troublesome lyrics. Lines like “You’re lonely cause you’re never alone” or “Who put your eye out? Who cut the lights and sent you to stumbling?” color the songs with a pessimist’s view of the world, a person disappointed, isolated, and disassociated with that world.
And while the album is named after the novel by Henry Roth, I found it to be a possible sequel to The Catcher in the Rye, a piece written about Holden Caulfield’s vision of life ten years after the events in the book. The sad loner using harsh words to express their vision is echoed and mirrored between the two, and both with a veneer of beauty, an idea that despite hardship and depression, life can be beautiful and most often is. Even the last song on the album, entitled “Til the Death,” a song seemingly about suicide, is a gorgeous piece of music, building and swelling after the halfway point to a heart shaking finale that would make Thom Yorke envious.
Already no, too much. Enough dust to choke all Oklahoma and blot the sun. Give up, gave too much. Lay the ghost go effortlessly with it. I fight til the death and you’re next. Crash land. Escape. Pick up sounds that never got to tape. Fight til the death I’ll see you in the next life. With a dull blade it could take all night.
Blonde Redhead- Misery is a Butterfly
P.J. Harvey- To Bring You My Love
Lamb- What Sound?