Down here on the ground in the San Francisco Bay Area, away from the high and mighty halls of judgment that is the crumbling and fragmented institution of music criticism, the music/social scene is highly addictive and endlessly, nearly sickeningly beautiful. It’s a lot like taking a hit of acid that lasts for months instead of hours, only you can function without your mental state being called into question (assuming you haven’t thrown back a few too many brews). Every day, there’s a pack of people exuding vibes that draw you in, and every so often, one of them stands out in a way that makes you want to remember, and keep remembering.
One of the more recent additions to the Bay’s music scene has exactly that spark, and she’s someone I had mentioned in passing to my fellow Popdosers some months ago. But I’m sure they all forgot, being that I: a) do not frequent the staff’s virtual “water cooler” quite as often as my colleagues, b) I’m so highly complimentary of the SF Bay scene that it’s pretty much expected that I’m going to gush about someone here, c) my output for Popdose has been rather meager compared to previous years, and c) well, in terms of plain ol’ logistics, the artist in question simply did not have anything brand spankin’ new for me to promote in these hallowed pages of interwebbiness until now.
And what of Miss Anna Ash? She of the pitch perfect, Marilyn-meets-Ella, coquettishly cute, drop-dead knockout of a voice? With taste in band configurations that places her in an elite group that knows how to take high-brow concepts like “folk,” “jazz” and “trained, disciplined musicianship” and make them appear not only effortless, but endlessly and magnetically fun, even to the point where once in a blue moon the band might have a little too much fun?
Oh yeah, her. She’s alright.
(…please do not confuse Anna Ash with Ash Reiter, who received the Popdose treatment back in March of this year. Many folks I talk to do get confused, but Anna Ash and Ash Reiter are NOT the same person – you heard it here first. Onward…)
…since leaving her home state of Michigan a little more than a year ago to mix in with the Bay’s sunny sounds, Anna has gotten herself into a good solid groove that keeps shifting ever so slightly away from the ornate folkiness of her 2009 EP, My Oh My, which she recorded and released towards the end of her Michigan days. Many of the same elements that went into that gorgeous EP are still a part of her sound – a jazzy upright bass player locking in tightly with the backbeat, a mix of tasty lead guitar lines with folky instruments like ukulele and autoharp, and of course, that voice which recalls the stunning soprano of ‘60s Welsh folkie Mary Hopkin, informed with a generous helping of the sassy sex appeal of Peggy Lee’s “Fever.”
And this is where the “something new” to gush about comes in:
“Just Like the Movies” is a new song that Anna has been performing in her live sets this year, a song that is typical of her gradual move away from the perfect poetry of sad songs like the opener on her My Oh My EP, “Opoutere,” and towards something a bit more direct and rooted in “pop music,” whatever that is. I say “gradual move” because, even though her lyrics on “Movies” are not as flowery as on some of her older tunes, the concept of life imitating cinema is still a time-honored, romanticized notion that fits in quite naturally with Anna’s oeuvre to date. Furthermore, if you take a listen to another new song of Anna’s called “Heartbreak Season” (or “Boys and Girls” as she introduces it at her live gigs, or “Heartbreak Season (Boys and Girls)” as she most recently told me when I asked which is the real title), you’ll hear that she isn’t afraid to dive full-on into the fray of pop music’s drive to keep pumping out dance-ready hook-up songs, albeit with a style that nobody but Anna can lay claim to at this point.
Which is all to say that, Anna Ash is a babe. She knew that a long time ago. Now you know it too.
Anna Ash plays monthly, on average, in various Bay Area locales both reputable and completely unknown. Sometimes she even ventures outside the Bay bubble. Check her official website and her MySpace for tour dates and other news, and most importantly, shower her Kickstarter project with all the love your heart can muster before December 31, 2010.