(26 Nov 2015) Anna Madsen's debut recording is the stunning five-track EP Palm Reader produced by Brian Coombes and recorded earlier this year at Rocking Horse Studio. Frequent visitors should recall our review of the Waking In The Blue Album Isn't It Pretty To Think So? and interview with Brian and his wife Michelle. Since that time their studio has earned a great reputation and numerous awards.
We met Anna, Brian and Michelle at Musical Discoveries HQ outside Boston to talk about the studio, the team's work, and to explore Anna's new EP in detail. In addition to writing and performing music, Anna is a photographer, model, and actress. Anna acted in the motion picture Granite Orpheus, scheduled for release in mid-2016. The film's soundtrack features the title track from Anna's EP as well as the Anna Madsen/Alex Preston duet, "I Would Save You."
Anna's song writing process is especially unique. She told us, "I typically present the song with lyrics, melody, and vocal harmonies, and then a combination of Joey Pierog, Rick Black, and Brian add the harmonic structure below my melodies and create the instrumental sections." Not only does Anna come to the studio with the lyrics, but these lyrics tell a story. The songs on Palm Reader appear to consistently reflect and build upon mythological themes.
The title track tells the story of a visit to a palm reader in search of love. Speaking further about the arrangement, Brian told us, "The closing section was something that I wrote specifically because Anna wanted to end the song with a waltz."
Musically, Anna has been described as "Lana Del Rey meets Kate Bush meets Enya," but ultimately her music is completely her own and expands beyond one genre. We hear Tori Amos in her style as well. Her influences include contemporary classical composers, church hymns from her childhood, world music, and modern alternative rock and folk/americana.
The lyrics of "Epitaph" -- listen for the Tori allusions -- address the battle between good and evil. Brian added, "The ebow/theremin/slide guitar section is another example of an instrumental section that Joey and I added to Anna's otherwise very complete song." Their arrangements perfectly complement Anna's evocatively beautiful voice.
"Madame Laree" tells the story of Marina's visit to a mystic in hopes of ending a string of one night stands with a life long partner. The acoustic arrangements backing Anna's tender vocal delivery are tremendous. The upbeat but bluesy "Luna" continues the theme of search for a life long love through a mystical consult. Anna's vocalise perfectly joins the higher register cello part in the bridge.
The EP's standout track is "Cimmerian," a dramatically performed number that opens with a tremendous fiddle and harpsichord arrangement. In classical mythology, the word cimmerian relates to or suggests western people believed to dwell in perpetual darkness. Following her whispers that conclude the introduction, Anna's powerful lead vocal soars above rich arrangements that build with electric guitars, fiddle, percussion and drum kit. Listen for the thunderous bass pedal riff. The closing chorus leaves the listener aching for more. EP samples can be streamed to your device from iTunes.
The vocals and arrangements on Anna's Palm Reader EP are stunningly produced. It is very listenable and each play will reveal new material to the listener. So impressed with the project, we established an all-new Best of The Year (BOTY) category to recognize it here. We are therefore very pleased to announce that
Palm Reader is Musical Discoveries' 2015 BOTY EP. We can't wait to hear more from Anna Madsen.--Audrey and Russ Elliot in St Thomas, USVI