Artist: Anni Rossi
Album: Rockwell
Label: 4AD Records

Continuing to Hope

By: Sean Moundas

Every decade or so, the American music industry remembers that it created the genre, “women in music” and promotes more albums by female singer-songwriters. The most recent wave can be traced back to the well-deserved hype surrounding Regina Spektor’s fourth album, “Begin to Hope.” Shortly after, her more conventionally sounding musical first-cousins including Sarah Bareilles, A Fine Frenzy, and Ingrid Michaelson, followed.
Anni Rossi seems more like a sister. Like Spector, she has a quirky but comforting voice which she employs with versatility. Indeed, she deftly alternates between catchy but confessional tunes (the keyboards on Ecology add a nice upbeat touch) and moodier gems laced with vulnerability such as The West Coast.
On her full-length debut, Rossi invites listeners to her optimistic but neurotic psyche layered with emotional language, physical landscapes, and sympathetic characters. She takes us on her quarter-life crisis (she’s 23 after all) “on a road trip that turns into going home to (or from?) The West Coast.

We also can emphasize with her yearning for the genuineness of passionate love (“we can’t buy these impulses from a Machine) and its disappointments found in Venice, “the city of love drowning,” in which her eccentric but classically-trained viola playing shines most brightly.

In Deer Hunting Camp 17, where Rossi treats the viola like an acoustic guitar, we encounter Mr. Hunt, a teacher whom Rossi probably did more than simply meet. We root for the struggling boxer in Vegas, a clichéd archetype who was perhaps included after Rossi had repeatedly listened to Aimee Mann’s “The Forgotten Arm.”
Despite this intimacy, there are times when her lyrics seem obtuse and devoid of context. On Wheelpusher, a Tori-Amos glossary is needed to discern the imagery (“To find a beekeeper that puts up with a stinger”), and while Rossi lets us know that Glaciers is indeed “about glaciers”¦all the hills and ice and snow…” this knowledge does not shed light on why she has an affinity for “freezer boxes and freezer units [that] preserve my heart.”

Nonetheless, it is to Rossi’s credit that her voice sounds the most passionate and inviting on these tracks, suggesting profound origins.
Rossi also rocks less well when singing words penned by others. For example, on Rollin Hunt’s “Air Is Nothing,” she croons, “We move through air, we move through nothing,” it seems that she is just filling album space.

Yet, she knows how to pick a cover. When Rossi hypnotically but touchingly croons, “you’ll be living in danger,” from Ace of Bace’s 1996 hit, listeners are likely to be very afraid and left wondering what she could have done with “All That She Wants.”
Overall, Rossi has accomplished a musical feat. In just about 25 minutes, she created an album that was adventurous lyrically and musically. What she sometimes lacks in accessibility and integration of her lyrical styles, Rossi makes up for in creativity, technical skill, and most of all ““ passion, and I hope she keeps singer-songwriting on.