Album Review: Anna Elizabeth Laube – Tree

Anna Elizabeth Laube | Tree

Anna Elizabeth Laube funnels a tapestry of odes, laments, prayers and wishes into her latest album Tree to create a collection of songs that are at once heartwarming and boldly questioning of the boundaries between love and time.

The album begins with “Wallflower”, which feels like an invitation and is a tune softly confident in its uncertainty. The interaction between voice and fiddle color the track and draw a parallel to the comfort of companionship in the face of existential pondering. With hints of Neko Case and Abigail Washburn, Laube sounds almost as if she sings with a smile skirting around the edges of her mouth.

“Tree” – the title track – slips into your ears as a cross between an ode and a lullaby and succeeds in painting a rolling narrative of time passing and resonates as an acknowledgment of the landscape that sustains our days. The simple guitar and voice arrangement expands like the branches of an old sycamore, and harmony vocals are placed exactly where you’d want, satisfying a timeless sense of nostalgia. Exploring themes of rebirth and interconnectedness lyrically, a distorted guitar emerges towards the end of the track like the grim reaper himself before fading off into what is once again a peaceful lullaby, soon dispersed into the warm breeze of a summer night.

Throughout the album, songs travel through the seasons. “Sunny Days” exudes the playful rays of July sunlight with injections of Jazz from an upright bass and reggae-esq guitar strumming patterns. Images of peacock feathers and swinging your legs off the edge of the top of the world leave a comforting heat – like warmth in your cheeks after a day at the lake. “Lose, Lose, Lose” touches down in the chill of December, invoking the cold realities of addiction recovery and a breakup on Christmas eve, sleigh bells and all.

Stark honesty adds grit to the collection. In “I miss you so much”, the lyrics are shameless in their dusty lament – with nothing to lose and no dignity to spare. It’s a song that explores heartbreak as far as it can go, with twangy guitar and a whining harmonica to support the declaration. “Longshoreman” features a calming melody and tastefully distorted guitar tone to create the overwhelming feeling of reliving a memory in sepia tones. With a sing-a-long chorus and sporadic background vocals sung by what must be either pacific coast mermaids or friendly sky-faring pirates, it is ultimately a song of goodbyes – of moments gone to fast and far flung loves standing wind-blown on opposite coasts.

Already a beloved songsmith in the Midwest and now based in Seattle, Laube’s writing is accessible and inviting, even on the darker tracks. Tree also features a cover of Beyonce’s “XO” – tender, ethereal, and complete with an angelic trumpet section, it fits in well with the rest of the album’s themes of unlimited possibility in an ultimately finite life.

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