There’s a misunderstanding when I start my conversation: Anni Rossi sounds a lot like her mom who has answered the phone. I can hear the sound of younger kids running around rustling things – an easy distraction. Perhaps reminiscent of the years Anni has spent as backing band to many other artists up until releasing her own records. She explains what she’s been up to between her debut Rockwell and her recent sophomore release Heavy Meadow, released under Welsh boutique label 3Syllables.
“I definitely feel like I’ve graduated. I feel like now I’ve only started and there’s different ideas I’d like to work with in the studio. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m coming into my own.”
Armed with a viola, a bass, a juno, a moog, drums (Devin Maxwell), a recording engineer, Anni Rossi set herself out to brave the odds of putting out the often cursed sophomore album. She even chose to push her luck by self-producing it as well. Of course, big risks can only mean big pay-offs, but here it’s not because of chance. On “Heavy Meadow”, Rossi is even more confident, and this allows her to trust and delegate in areas she does not yet master – with Maxwell eagerly dispensing invaluable feedback, co-production and drum arrangements.
“Even when I was making earlier records, I had always envisioned reaching this area where I could explore different pop ideas, but in my own way with raw and handmade techniques – in that way it’s very different from my first record”
One of the major departures from Rossi’s usual work: instead of making electronic music with a set of acoustic instruments, she’s now doing the same with the intent of making a pop album. Where her voice once seemed to spontaneously be soaring and plunging, she’s now focused her meticulous arrangement of complex vocal parts around proper hooks, pop-sensitive melodies and neatly punched-in witticisms. One could easily mistake these efforts for a simpler sound, and yet they are anything but. Rossi’s classical background negotiates with her long-stemmed love for gloom-filled songwriting in popular music to propose something as intelligent as it is accessible and even danceable.
(c) Rollin Hunt
“I listen to a lot (of La Roux’s) music and I reference it as well, but I feel like we’re kindred spirits in a weird way. It kind of shows you how I write music.”
This reference along with allusions to Weylon Jennings or mid-90s R’n’B outfits such as Total are peppered throughout the album. Somewhere between Duran Duran’s synth-pop, Aaliyah’s dark R’n’B and classic 70’s rock, I’m trying to get a more cohesive picture of her influences. Among these, chamber music holds the same weight as her formative years spent listening to top-40 radio. But the way Rossi interprets her musical nostalgia makes this record most endearing: each creative choice made instinctively pays homage to a favorite songs.
Heavy Meadow attests to Anni Rossi’s growth: her music remains ever-evolving and innovative. However, quietly, she’s developed a strong appreciation for the processes of songwriting, recording and producing – making her more flexible. Clear objectives and set ideas, once bubbling at the surface are now coming up for air, well-rounded and defined – making this work her most gratifying yet.
Bonus Track: Anni Rossi’s cover of Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine”: