(21 May 2016) The debut full-length album from Anna Madsen is an awesome twelve-track collection entitled Efflorescence (Rockinghorse Studio (USA) RH1601-2, 2016). The singer/songwriter's Palm Reader was selected as Musical Discoveries' first ever Best Of The Year EP in 2015 (review). The new album was produced, recorded and mixed by Brian Coombes and includes material written by Anna Madsen and her co-writers. Read more about Anna Madsen, her music and other work, the album and supporting artists in our exclusive interview.
Melodic vocals and lush harmonies define the Anna Madsen sound, while cellos, violins, subtle synths, atmospheric guitars, and propulsive drums and loops provide the sonic backdrop. Lyrically, Anna explores topics ranging from mystical romance, fate, and courageous characters from history and her imagination. Musically, she 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. Her influences include contemporary classical composers, church hymns from her childhood, world music, and modern alternative / folk / rock music. Pay close attention to the stunning imagery in all of Anna's physical and online work.
Efflorescence includes the five songs from the artist's debut EP, two of which have been reworked for the album and six-all new offerings. Anna told us, "We ended up reworking the songs "Luna" and "Epitaph." On the EP, "Luna" was more reminiscent of a gypsy folk tune, and I wanted it to sound more ethereal and starry to match the lyrical content of the song." She continued, "The major changes on "Epitaph" included bringing out the drums to propel the song along, and changing a lyric on one of the verses to alter its meaning." We've previously written about these songs in our Palm Reader EP review.
Three of the album's new songs likely differ most from Anna's recordings to date and coincidentally include contributions from Anthony Phillips (Genesis) on twelve-string, cuatro and other guitars. "Black Dress" is a very lushly arranged and sensual and lustful downtempo number. The twelve-string and warm keyboard washes provide a foundation for Anna's tender and crystalline vocal delivery "Irena's Lullaby." The almost a cappella closing is stunning.
The Americana-styled "Pioneer Hymn" features Anna's lead vocal set atop acoustic arrangements with Anthony Phillips' cuatro guitar. Backing female vocals by Michelle Coombes, Hannah Rose, Emily Jeffries and Carolyn Clark add a great warmth to the arrangement but never overpower Anna's lead. A cappella vocals bring the song to an incredible conclusion.
Anna's previously released winter single "Golden Room" is also included on the album. The only track the artist has released thus far with Anna's stunning soprano operatic vocalise, the arrangement also shares the powerful bass pedals heard earlier and most clearly on the EP's and album's standout track "Cimmerian." Primarily a piano-based ballad the song warms up significantly in first vocalise-intensive chorus and second chorus that features lyrics instead and closes the brief number.
Anna's new material brackets her former EP's songs. The album's opener, "Devil's Garden" is a warmly arranged rock song. Listeners will be drawn in by Anna's lead vocal, the supporting harmonies and crisp percussion in addition to the warm keyboard- and guitar-based arrangements. Anna's own multilayered vocal harmonies add great texture. "March of the Wounded" appears on the other side of (re-arranged) "Luna" and "Palm Reader" and features an arrangement with male backing vocals by Brian Coombes, Joey Pierog, Myron Kibbee and Ian Sleeper. Anna's vocal delivery here is the most powerful on the entire album.
The albums standout track is "Cimmerian," a dramatically performed number that opens with a tremendous fiddle and harpsichord arrangement. 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. An acoustic version of the song is featured in the artists' live performances.
While Anna Madsen is touring through the summer in New England to promote the album, everybody can watch Anna's "Palm Reader" video (2016 NEMA nominee for Best Video) online today. Palm Reader and Efflorescence can also presently be streamed on Spotify; follow the links from her website to them. Hard copies of the album are available through CDBaby, Rockinghorse Studio and at live performances.
Efflorescence is digitally available from most online outlets. Get your copy of this stunning album now. Bravo!