If Brynn Andre’s debut record Snowboots (Words On Music, 2007) followed the teenage singer-songwriter’s passage from her North Dakota past, then her new self-titled follow-up album documents the upheaval she faced in Minneapolis after reluctantly unmasking what had become her present-day fiction.
Produced by Nashville wunderkind Neilson Hubbard (Kate York, Matthew Perryman Jones), the record’s ten songs find Andre forging her own pathway to an unknown but boundless future with a compass carved from the agonizing dissolution of a long-term relationship.
In between records, Andre found her life becoming smaller and smaller, taking an identity (and songwriting) moratorium whilst becoming a corporate cube-dweller. In this emotionally detached foxhole, she bided her time whilst waiting to take on the role of the idyllic Midwestern wife she thought she wished to play.
But Brynn’s protagonist was not yet casting, nor being altogether forthright, and echoes of this unrealized life seep into songs like Ravine, in which Andre asks:
Isn't that the point, aren't you the one / Who's supposed to pull out the rug /
And tell me baby, all of our waiting / It's finally done
In time Andre stopped waiting, and by ending the relationship and razing her as-prescribed life she jump-started her songwriting with an untapped rawness and ferocity, composing words and music that had been submerged for years in her half-contented illusory relationship.
With heartbreak as the match for her new songwriting spree, her trusted piano was the matchbox that gave it form and function, creating dimly lit ballads such the sparse, 3/4 metered Devil and the impossibly hook-laden Homecoming King.
But sometimes the fire lights up a room, and it’s then you can trace the jagged outline of Andre’s not yet fully mended heart. Using a buoyant tempo as a sleight of hand, Andre levies her indictment in Crime:
I've got evidence that you've been lying to me all across state lines/
While you make a great case, I found your fingerprints on every single exit sign
Which is to say, Andre occasionally takes a look back, such as on Fire Escape, in which she coos over a bluesy soundscape that might emanate from the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks:
I've tried to love the echo / Of my empty place /
But I want rocks at my window / Crawl up my fire escape
Now unfettered, Andre has taken first steps down her new path, revealed first as an over the shoulder threat in My Best:
To all the ones who left / You have never seen my skin glow quite like this /
And tonight, tonight / I'm gonna give someone my best
And then as an explicit confessional in the torrid Shot Glass:
Fill it up with good stuff baby / Take it down fast /
Fill me up with good stuff baby / We're going down fast
As verdant life returns stronger and more plentiful after being decimated from volcanic ash, Brynn Andre is a record borne from destruction, but richly populated with melodies and lyrics with long half lives and deep roots.
RIYL: Sara Bareilles, Vanessa Carlton, Missy Higgins, Madi Diaz
5 Homecoming King