A little bit of steel guitar and a whole lot of clear female vocals make The Colder Months an absolutely stunning album from Liza Anne. While a bit more layered in its musical complexity than other artists in the singer songwriter genre, it’s obvious that Liza Anne has a clear sound that she maintains throughout the album. It’s not every day I hear an album and think, “I can’t wait to hear this live.” This is one of those rarities.
The opener “Watering Can” is a quaint yet serious salvo for an authentic album. With inflections a little like Sara Bareilles at times and Sara Watkins at others, her sound is perfect for the type of music she plays. The minor turn on the chorus of this song pretty much exemplifies Liza Anne’s adorable sound. “We were never meant to grow” is the pretty much damning lyric that summarizes a song about a relationship that didn’t quite have the nurturing it needed to prosper.
“Thin Ice” is about cheating. The title “Thin Ice” is pretty obvious to that point. But it’s a really engaging song because it’s from the perspective of the woman who’s been potentially cheated on. Instead of keying his car or calling him out, it’s a sweet and sad heartfelt reflection on the pain that comes with such an action. The music is not terribly unique, but it has layered instrumentation that at times highlights the hints of banjo in the background for a nice touch. What I like best about it is the listener can hear Anne’s exceptional vocals clearly, which convey the lyrics gently and gracefully.
“I am not in love anymore” has a cutesy sound to it. The strings at the opening (mandolin, or capo-ed guitar) give it an Ingrid Michaelson sound. It’s actually a tragic song about realizing she’s not in love with someone, but trying to figure out how to say it. It’s the perfect track for a coffeehouse soundtrack. It’s not what she wants to say, but exactly what he needs to hear. She’s not in love anymore. The second half of the track picks up tempo and sounds a bit more like pure pop, but Anne’s voice keeps it feeling accessible and sweet.
The fingerpicking on “Ireland” makes the track. The more ambient “Peter” that follows it does the same thing as its predecessor – they both highlight the subtle vocals of Liza Anne. Now I know that I’ve mentioned several “sounds like” artists already, but on “Peter” Liza seems to channel her inner Karen Carpenter. That’s vocal royalty right there. “You taught me how to fly…” in reference to Peter, of course, makes me think of the incomparable Peter Pan. “Oh darlin’ when are you coming back for me?” It seems to be another tragic love song. It fits with the rest of the album quite nicely.
I think “Rubble” would have been a nice last track. “The rubble of the night is on my mind…” seems to be a nice concluding thought. It’s the long walk home after a night of one-too-many drinks. “I always have you on my mind… you know I do.” More a song about the relationship that isn’t anymore more than one that used to be, it’s a great song that a lot of listeners can relate to. It would make a great track for a TV show or film soundtrack.
The best track on the album by FAR is “1000 years” featuring Jake Vroon. Admittedly this is as much my personal preference as anything, but I think the two voices work together really well. They have an electric kind of “pop” vocal blending that really works. The piano, full band, and vocals sound like a traditional 1950s pop sound. The last lyric really just makes the song, though. In a track about distance and disconnection, the last line is “I’m always just a bottle away from you.” It sounds like pop, but that’s country right there.
The title track “The Colder Months” begins with the same ambient electric guitar as about half the tracks on the album. Again Liza Anne’s vocals shine. Her inflections are just… incredible. It’s the kind of thing that no one can coach or teach. An artist either has it or they don’t. She has it in spades. The lyrics are about the uncertainty when commitment gets dangerous in a relatively new relationship. The final track “Tunnels” is also about a past relationship. “I don’t think I like myself without you.” Largely about coping with the aftermath of the relationship, it’s a solid piano-based introspective piece.
All told this album is a great fit for the female singer songwriter fan. Many of the tracks would work on a coffeeshop mix track. It’s great fodder for someone coping with a breakup or hoping for a new relationship. The questions at the heart of Liza Anne’s music seem to be genuine, deep, and reflective of real human conflict. The album deserves critical acclaim and widespread listening. For my money “1000 years” should be getting mainstream airplay. It’s a must-buy album for fans of the likes of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.