The second album from Detroit songstress Anna Burch is on the surface, a bright and melodic alt-pop excursion, but on closer inspection, it is tinged with an undercurrent of melancholy; lyrically dark and revealing in its delivery.
Hot on the heels of her 2018 debut Quit the Curse, If You’re Dreaming has been produced by Sam Evian out of his Catskill Mountains studio. The region has historically been a haven for musicians, artists & all things creative and Burch has certainly dug a little deeper on this subtly introspective LP. Although positive-sounding with free-flowing, upbeat tunes, the core of the songwriting is mainly centred around the themes of disillusionment, relationship lethargy, insecurity and downright resentment.
The heavy, opening bassline on ‘Can’t Sleep’ gives way to a catchy, humming guitar riff, eventually shattered by the overall message within the song – “…seems everything you do, gets undone…”. ‘Party’s Over’ has a lethargic laziness about it – “Do we have to go, we could just stay home”, coupled with sadness and confusion – “When did I lose your eye, feels like I’ve lost my mind.”
There are evident signs of paranoia and insecurity throughout ‘Jacket’ – “Don’t tell me she’s just shy / she still makes you sad, I can’t help with that” ‘Ask Me To’ has a submissive, loving easiness about it with some clever, relatable lyrics – “It won’t be too long before it hits, like too much wine on empty stomachs”. This track is indicative of Burch’s ability to combine strength, verve and honesty in her writing with a sound that lacks any trace of confrontation whatsoever. This veiled bitterness is equally evident in the brilliant ‘Go It Alone’, one of the strongest tracks on the album – “You just bum everybody out / Don’t even pick up the phone, ’cause corresponding’s not your thing”.
‘Tell Me What’s True’ on which her accompanying video pays homage to the 1974 Scorsese flick, ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ is one of Burch’s more stripped-down efforts on this release. Stark electric piano and Burch’s voice seem more exposed and vulnerable here – “My perspective’s skewed, don’t know what to do / Don’t go, I need you, to tell me what is true”.
There is a simple yet playful optimism, executed with a hint of Suzanne Vega on ‘Not So Bad’ – “What is this instinct to hit on everything / I’m still here if things aren’t clear”. The transient, longing nature of life on the road as musicians is played out on ‘Every Feeling’ – “So take it with you everywhere you go, even if you’re not afraid of being alone”, whereas the closing track ‘Here With You’ has an air of happy resignation about it.
“You say you don’t mind the routine, but I get mean…” sings Burch. This courage and conviction in her songwriting is displayed throughout, not shying away from expressing the more challenging sides of intimate relationships. Despite not being blessed with a wealth of stand-out, individual tracks, If You’re Dreaming flows well in its collective form. Burch has crafted some bright, witty, intelligent indie-pop with a lyrical bite that gives her music an edge.