On her new album (released today) Heavy Meadow, Anni Rossi switched up her sound. Setting aside the arty, sparse folk of her 4AD debut Rockwell (produced by Steve Albini), she brought some new elements into the mix. There are hints of R&B and new wave, hip-hop and laid-back funk scattered throughout, as well as richer and more layered arrangements, with synths taking a larger role. Rossi's voice is still the same though, strong and sweet, and the songs are better than ever. It's the kind of album that you want Feist to make one of these days. We wondered how she put the album together and what some of the inspirations behind the sound of it were, so we asked Anni for a few examples....
Here's a track from Heavy Meadow to get you started -- "Land Majestic"
Beyonce - "Singles Ladies"
I liked the way her voice and lyrical enunciation fit the arrangement. It had its own sonic pocket within the recording that sucked me into the song - some of it to do with mixing, but mostly due to her performance and precise vocal doublings. I ended up using this technique for every song on Heavy Meadow to emphasize my melodies and lyrics.
Elastica - Elastica
This album had minimal parts that worked together to create its power and momentum. Instead of all the rhythm coming from the drums, the guitars and vocals carried a lot of syncopation and movement too. It helped me hear my parts in a visual way. I have a tendency to write very rhythmic melodies and viola parts which makes it easy to clutter up a song. After I had some time away from demoing, I listened to this album and realized less was more and made my arrangements more minimal. Even though I stripped things down, my songs became more open and full. This band rules and so does this video.
Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West
I will never forget the day I was at my brother's high school graduation party and decided that I loved the sound of this album. I was 13 and had previously hated it for years because my brother would always put it on to annoy me. I was listening to it a lot when I first started writing songs. I can hear the influence of this band in my writing still to this day, especially in my plodding tempos which feel similar to the slow and insistent beats of this song.
Jay Z - The Black Album
My priority for Heavy Meadow was to support my vocal melody and keep everything out of its way. It was very important for me to keep the song and the lyrics right in the listener's ear. I became frustrated at times because some of the songs were getting lost in the arrangements. I referenced this album because his voice and his words sounded most present throughout the whole album.
Depeche Mode - "Enjoy the Silence"
I was looking for recordings that successfully paired guitars and electronics, so when I stumbled on this it was very helpful. I modified my viola with a guitar pick up so that it could act as a clean or dirty guitar sound throughout the record. It presented difficulties because the range of sounds were somewhat limited due to my shall we say "jhanky" set up. Hearing the seemless interactions of guitars with synthesizers in this song gave me a good starting point.
*Please note that Devin Maxwell was a co-producer and drummer, who contributed to some of this even though it was written in first person by me.