Anaïs Mitchell, Anaïs Mitchell

On her first album in a decade, Mitchell lets the delights of vocal harmony and opulent melody with a raw, silken edge shine through.
Reviews

Anaïs Mitchell, Anaïs Mitchell

On her first album in a decade, Mitchell lets the delights of vocal harmony and opulent melody with a raw, silken edge shine through.

Words: AD Amorosi

February 02, 2022

Anaïs Mitchell
Anaïs Mitchell
BMG

What do you do after you’ve been part of a culture-shifting Broadway musical and your name isn’t Lin-Manuel Miranda? If you’re Anaïs Mitchell, the folk-country songwriting singer behind the Tony Award–winning Hadestown, you head back to the nearest blackboard and re-schematic the elements of what made your start point, and albums such as The Song They Sang… When Rome Fell and Hymns for the Exiled, so bracing. In fact, the Vermont-based singer, on her new eponymously titled album, even looks toward the optimism that made 2007’s The Brightness a moody beam of light filled with specks of emotional, ruminative silt.

As she has in the past, Mitchell—a lovely cross between the ramshackle Ani Di Franco and the genre-shifting Erin McKeown—lets the delights of vocal harmony and opulent melody with a raw, silken edge shine through. The love letter to her former home, “Brooklyn Bridge,” the welcome wagon for muses that is “Bright Star”—as open and poetically thorough as its lyrics are, the album's songcraft flies equally as provocative, enticing, and far-flung. That’s how Mitchell got to make an endearing, world-weary musical in the first place: dramatic structure. She knows how to send a song up, and let it do its busy work. Plus, she has a backing band to make the melodies soar alongside a wide variety of unique instrumental accompaniment, with guitars contributed by The National’s Aaron Dessner bolstered by mellotron courtesy of Thomas Bartlett and harmonium from Bonny Light Horseman’s Josh Kaufman.

When Mitchell isn’t busy looking at her own fourth decade on this earth with her eyes on the prize and the pains of her childhood (“Big Little Girl” and “Revenant”), she’s taking to the embrace of her fifth decade (the spare ballad “Watershed”) with cool curiosity and hope. She may touch lightly on sour issues such as racist cops (“Backroads”) and sexual violence (“Little Big Girl”) for a dash of bittersweet, but Mitchell’s hopefulness and charm are the stars here.