Album Review: Anna Tivel, ‘Blue World’

From the opening notes on the first track, “Alleyway,” to the closing measures of the final track, Anna Tivel’s new album dwells in a sonic spaciousness that invites us into its world to explore the shadowy corners of our souls and the exposed edges of our hearts.

On Blue World, Tivel, Clark, and Hummel reimagine songs that appear on her earlier albums (Small Believer, The Question, Before Machines, Heroes Waking Up), with the exception of “Two Dark Horses,” a new song which will appear also on a forthcoming album, Outsiders. “Alleyway,” opens with single piano notes that blossom into a haunting, measured cadence that strides into the bottomless of loss and the dreams we dredge out of emptiness. Clark’s exquisite piano and Tivel’s vocals mirror each other with exquisite precision, creating a cascading waterfall of sound. Clark’s meandering piano notes at the close of “Minneapolis” tumble along like drops of rain reflecting the darkness of the rain clouds against the brilliance of sunlight emerging from the clouds; his notes move nimbly between the minor chord blues theme of the song to bright notes that end the song with some hopefulness. The shimmering vibrato of Clark’s Wurlitzer that open “Illinois” belie the darkness of the song’s theme of abuse, while the echoing notes of “Shadowland” mimic the jagged ways we fall out of the shadows and back into the light; Tivel captures the ordinariness of daily life that we take for granted until we lose it in a pandemic, or other catastrophic event, like the one through which we have just muddled. The title track, which closes the album, floats along Clark’s reverberating organ and piano, meandering slowly to convey the ways we embrace the devastation and freedom of loss, and spiraling into an ethereal sonic soundscape that resonates with a spiritual liberation.

Blue World floats somewhere between Laura Nyro’s late albums and Norah Jones’ sad-eyed brightness. Tivel and her collaborators Galen Clark, on organ and piano, and Micah Hummel, on percussion, create a dazzling azure space that is restorative and alluring; the sparse character of each song allows Tivel’s vocals to inhabit the silence between the notes, at once carrying us deeper into ourselves and transporting us out of ourselves to a place where our emotions tumble out of us.

Blue World  is available HERE.


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