Another rare bird, of soulful beauty, is flying high in the Cuckoo nest.
Some Day will be available shortly on Annie’s debut E.P.
THOUGHTS and diversions once again are in familiar waters…
I have long said that the burdens the young solo artists face are numerous, and hazardous. I shan’t flog a dead gift-horse again; suffice it to say there are two important and vital components to perfect, with regards to making an impact. The lyrics and music are as important as anything. Too often style and substance have taken a back seat to a set of songs, that are deeply personal, but incongruous. The words are seldom fascinating, poetic, or even original: bogged down in a quagmire of cliche scenes and lazy metaphors. Of course first person personal narratives are a perennial favourite, and win most minds- if done right. I have heard so few bands or artists whom talk of subjects away from love, or even take the subject of romance and give it a literary or filmic spin. When considering the voice; this is my biggest sticking point. It is possibly a bigger issue with female singers, compared to their male counterparts. Too many solo artists have a voice which is so androgynous, it is hard to tell whether they have any sort of talent at all. The vocals may be sweet and pleasant enough, but either sound exactly the same as several dozen other artists, or else run the risk of mimicking an existing artist. It is an ever-present problem, and one that is in danger of burying a lot of artists, whom are genuinely unique and promising. I know it is a bit of a sore subject for me, but the voice, and vocal prowess, is a key element for me, when considering new music. It is essential to be a sharp lyricist and great composer, but the voice is the most prominent and immediate facet to any artist. It is always a pleasure to hear a voice that has expressiveness, soulful edges, power, and above all, a unique flair to it. I emphasise and sympathise with the plight of the new artist. With the ever-growing number of acts entering the market place, combined with the pressure faced with regards to originality, there is a bit of a terminal velocity limit. Getting a foothold and making impressions a lot of times, can rely upon strokes of luck, as well as being in the right place at the right time. In 2013, and for the last few years, there has been a demand for either innovative bands that have cerebral edges and heavier potential, or solo artists whom are have soulful tones and ethereal underpinnings. Keeping your identity, whilst simultaneously fitting into the market and giving the public what they want, can be an almost-impossible task.
Almost half a dozen times, I have focused upon or mentioned Cuckoo Records. The Yorkshire record label is housing a small but innovative group of artists whom range in style and substance. There is swing, blues rock and ’70s pop/soul to be heard, and a host of other diversions and nooks to be discovered. Annie Drury was born in 1992, a year in which music began to really hot up, following a rather hit-and-miss ’80s. Britpop was a couple of years away, and grunge was in full swing. In the U.K. there was a great deal of credible dance music, fantastic pop, and modern soul. Now 23 was in the charts, and boasted hits from the likes of Charles and Eddie; Crowded House; INXS; Roxette and Peter Gabrielle. The range and quality was variable, but there was a higher percentage of memorable acts and songs then, than there are now; a lot of these tracks still stand up, 21 years later. Our Yorkshire singer-songwriter, was probably subjected to a lot of the sounds of 1992. However, the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Nina Simone and The Beatles are counted as her influences: meaning her household was buzzing with many sounds of the ’60s and ’70s (and ’80s to a degree). Annie’s father and grandfather were both musicians; her grandfather was a prominent musical figure in the 1940s. As well as being enamoured of, and inspired by the strong female influences such as Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, the likes of Carole King were also prominent. These are artists I have been inspired by and in awe of- especially Bush and King. These talents between them mix gorgeous piano melodies with stunningly evocative vocals; portraying scenes of ill-fated love and stranger more mythological scenes. When I was born, True by Spandau Ballet was number 1, and Thriller was on everyone’s mind. The mix of New Romantic music, and Michael Jackson gems were familiar to my ears when I was young, as well as the likes of The Beatles T-Rex and Kate Bush too. The music you are raised on and absorb at a young age, is as influential in forging your musical identity as modern influences are. A mixture of stunning legends and a strong musical upbringing, inspired Annie strongly. Modern artists such as Amy Winehouse and Bon Iver are key too, and unsurprisingly this mix of high quality and varied genres, has lead to a number of venues booking Annie. Before signing to Cuckoo in 2012, Annie toured around Leeds and Yorkshire (as part of a band and solo too), gaining followers, reputation and valuable experience. As her sound was honed, and her appeal noted, she brought all of this confidence and passion to Cuckoo, and has been growing as an artist over the 16 months since. Annie’s new E.P. is out very soon, and the young artist has a lot of plus points. She is a modern pin-up but has a lot of the girl-next-door charm and appeal too. Annie has a down-to-Earth charm and friendliness, and it is rare to hear of a talent in their early-20s, whom is influenced by the ’60s and ’70s legends, as opposed to artists such as Adele, Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and their ilk. Annie’s coda is to live in the present-day; for the moment. Her music, as well as having a heritage that suggests strong and wonderful sounds from artists past, is very much the sound of 2013…
Starting, as it does, with an exciting and evocative piano arpeggio, Some Day catches your emotions and mind immediately. There is romantic and passionate power behind the passage, and it succeeds in hooking you in, before a single word is sung. It is a brief and memorable dance, and introduces the vocal. Singing of “Oh what a day/What a day”; Annie’s voice has a soulful edge to it; as well as being breezy and seductive, it is also authoritative and romantic, with edges of ’60s and ’70s folk and soul. Annie has said that she tries to not sound like any of her idols; instead incorporate the sounds and flavours into her music, whilst retaining her individuality and ambition. It is difficult to hear any direct comparisons with any artists. Too many solo acts sound like a poor man’s version of their idols- bands do it too often as well. It seems to be a natural go-to for every new act: they have to sound like someone recongisable or popular, I suppose in their mind if they do not then they will alienate the media, fans and undecided voters alike. This is a crazy and short-sighted sin of omission. Individuality, originality and unique projection is the essential component and hallmark every single new act should strive for: something that Annie has figured, and does so brilliantly. Her voice is hers alone, but has the those edges of soul, folk and pop too. If anything, there are light shades of Laura Marling: a similar inflection and delivery to some of Marling’s tracks, and a comparable hew to the vocal tones. If any wisps in the voice suggest modern-day Marling, then the composition components: propulsive and impassioned piano, blending with lightly plucked strings, is far from Marling’s wheelhouse. It has more in common with past masters such as Bush and Mitchell, yet reinvented and modernised for 2013. Thematically, there is Clouds-era Joni Mitchell. Personal emotions and romantic considerations are alluded to, but the scenes within Some Day refer to dreams, ambitions past, and personal realisations: “You know I could have been a painter”, Annie intones, a hint of longing and regret nestles in her sweet hues. Rumbling and skipping drum rolls join the fray, and adds electricity and weight to the track. The chorus itself is summery, light and a sonic smile: our heroine mixes the song title with wordless declarations: this, blended with the composition behind it, gives it a modern and fresh kick, Irish flavours can be tasted between the strings, percussion and insatiable bonhomie: tantilising Mumford and Sons lines run parallel too. When Annie sings about personal regrets, doubts and recollections, she does so with edges of jazz, swing and soul. In the same way that modern artists such as Lilly Allen, Jessie Ware and Lianne La Havas have a way of enunciating and delivering their lines: at once pointed and punctual; the next floating and breezy, Annie does likewise. One can tell that the old legends remain in her soul. Her evocations, tales and delivery has a lot of the same graces and qualities. Her lyrics too are to be noted: “I could have been a lawyer” she claims; going on to say that she could have helped out her guy to “make you a better version of the miserable man you are”. When many contemporaries are projecting songs of love-gone-wrong, with lines wallowing in introspection and maudlin woe-is-me sympathy-seeking; Annie instead shows spiked heels. By linking professions with methods of hurting her no-good man, creates a sort of modern-day 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. It is evocative and brings myriad images to mind. Where as Mr. Simon told of the ways he could hit the road; mixing light-hearted images with lighter music, Annie does the same. She may have violent or vengeful intent and desire, but the vocals and skip in the music catches you off guard. Everything is kept spirited and strong: there is never any depressive undertones or fatigued anger. The wordless vocals and merry abandon of the music brings to mind Irish music, and their traditions- unsurprising given her family history. The strummed string backing- violin I would presume- has a romantic and swaying beauty to it: it creates energy and gravity, and blends well in the chorus. The track itself is quite short, but hits such a chord that it says so much, without having to extend itself. The lyrics are original and clever. There are hints of the likes of Lily Allen: artists whom can add wit and vivid imagery to their songs. Annie has created a song with sweeping and changeable musical scapes: shifting from romantic strings and pianos, to folkier ruminations. Her words are sharp, inventive and witty: love, giving it to a wrong-doer is giving a new spin and angle, setting it aside from most of her peers. The voice is sweet and soulful throughout. On other tracks I have heard from her, lean towards slower and most lustful proffering; but here there is a relentless energy and spring that keeps your heart skipping, even though the words have a sharp tongue to them.
Annie Drury is an artist with a great knowledge and passion for music. Understanding the importance of having a unique voice, whilst displaying a range of different emotions and sounds, she is far from your everyday solo artist. For far too long, there has been far too many whom are in the middle of the road and have no merits to their voice or music. Annie is in her early-20s, yet has the confidence and range of someone far, far older. Having heard River Flow in addition, it is clear that whatever the upcoming E.P. holds, will be something special. River Flow, I have been told, will be augmented with strings; the version that is currently available highlights Annie’s romantic and stunning piano playing skills: beautifully composed and able to elicit the maximum amount of emotional resonance. Annie will be a star of the future, and will be another name from Cuckoo’s books, that is sure to make huge waves. She is quite a diverse and different talent. Not merely contended to play a modern version of her favourite singers, or portray an inferior version of an existing talent, like so many of her contemporaries do. The combination of a rich musical upbringing, and a steely determination to enforce her originality and unique sound, results in music that will have a mass appeal; and will win respect across a number of different genres, counties and countries. In a year where the best moves are being made by established acts- The National, Daft Punk, Laura Marling, Queens of the Stone Age etc., the rest of the year, and 2014 will not have to suffer such a one-sided eventuality. Where there are acts, such as Annie Drury, willing to cast any conventional shackles off, and pioneering to take on the established acts, and be held in the same regard, it will be a very bright future indeed. If she can keep her ideals and talent at the level it is now…
SHE will not be relatively-unknown for too long at all.