Friday 3 February 2023

Album Review: Annie Capps - How Can I Say This?

If you enjoy diving into a deep lyrical pool, then the latest album from Annie Capps is a smart listener's delight. Taking a detour from her work with partner Rod, she plunges headlong into this stark and thoughtful solo project to deliver a dozen-strong collection. This presents HOW CAN I SAY THIS? as a body of personally driven songwriting of the highest calibre. 

The notes inform a 40-strong cast of all women collaborators have assisted on this project, but you feel forever secure in the solo arms of a songwriter exploring life and nostalgia from numerous angles and experiences. The album plays out on a level plane with minimal highs and lows. A few more notable peaks may have boosted the impact for casual listeners, but sufficient elegance and guile puts the album firmly on the road to laudable acceptance.

Truth or fiction are a creative writer's prerogative. We can only surmise the directions Capps takes throughout the songs here. She relies heavily on metaphorical content and at times the writing adopts an abstract coating. Nostalgia and reflective redemption seem to linger on the record that as a listener you have to embark on a voyage of fetch. The way Capps toys with words adds to the album's strong presence. There are many occasions where you feel on top of the meaning, while others seem a little adrift. 

The peaks for me are a couple of tracks in the midriff that protract as the album's shining light. 'My Father's House' leads the way with a sense of undulating memories coming to the surface just as the wrecking ball strikes. The vocal sound and song style is reminiscent to Susie Ungerleider, an association to be proud of in my book. 'The Punch' closely follows taking boxing metaphors and analogies to the pinnacle on a track underpinned by subtle mandolin. 

Elsewhere the instrumental accompaniment flickers from piano and violin to plain straightforward acoustic guitar. It is highly crafted and the perfect setting for serious songs that thrive in a mature supporting structure. 

Although it was intimated that extra hooks wouldn't go amiss, there is a splendid melody in the early verses of opening track 'My Eden'. A song explicitly referencing apples, serpents and temptation in line with the title to aid memory recollection. The album title track tenderly anchors the first half of a forty-minute record and deals with confronting the truth in a honest and candid way. 

The pick of the album's second half is the enhanced vocal clarity to 'Crowded', one of the odd occasions when the backing vocals come to the fore. There are times when the overall reception comes across as theatrical, probably most notably in the cabaret-showtime leaning to second track, 'Leaning'. Just to emphasise that this is not hugely dominant, a jazzy-bluesy lounge feel heralds the slightly mysterious 'Two Different Things'

There is an orchestral depth to HOW CAN I SAY THIS?, and it is probably not too far off the mark that making this record has touched some raw nerves for Annie Capps. On the upside, releasing this album to the wide open world lifts the lid in a way that could be therapeutic and fulfilling. Listeners checking in, but more likely digging deep, will also accrue a similar feeling engaging with a fully loaded and serenely delivered album.