Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I have had a bit of writer’s block lately. Writer’s block is a funny thing. It is easy to identify, but hard to remedy. The only real solution is time and crossing your fingers. At least that was my thinking. Once I heard Yes And No by Anna McClellan, I had all the inspiration and motivation I needed to started putting pen to paper. More appropriately, fingers to keyboard and affixing ass to chair.
Anna McClellan is quirky. Her singing style is non conventional to say the least. And this is where the beauty lies. She is warbly at times and transitions are not as smooth sometimes as we have been trained to hear. But there is a rawness and honestly that comes through but for this unconventional singing style. Reminds me a bit of Daniel Johnston, in delivery only. Her voice is actually quite beautiful. This is what moving the needle forward sounds like.
Originally, Anna is from Nebraska but she has been a true resident of NYC since January of 2017. There were a few years prior to the move when Anna was moving back and forth between Omaha and NYC. That is when the songs on Yes And No were conceived and written. The uncertainty of that period and the push and pull is expertly translated into these nine songs. The overall theme of this collection is about how to love a man so uncertainty and doubt are very viable emotions.
Time to talk brass tacks: the music. Let’s begin at the beginning, Flailing Orbits (Track 1). This song is a cross between Carole King’s singing and Neil Young’s composition. This is a beautiful two minute song that could have easily been stretched out to three and a half or longer. Flailing Orbits is about two romantic partners who are no longer on the same trajectory. Anna’s writing and creativity is at its highest level on this song.
A number of the songs have a very complex arrangement, similar to a mini symphony. No song demonstrates this better than Hold On Too Tight (Track 6). It has a very ballady/old timey rock and roll feel to it. It is a song that moonlights as a musical movement. Pretty heavy. huh? Well this song is deservant of such high praise.
I believe a lot of you share the same musical philosophy as I do. That is, we need constant mind expansion through creativity. Just listening to the same thing over and over does not conform to my philosophy. On the contrary, Yes And No totally abides by my very rigid tenets. Listen and explore this awesome album. I know you will find a favorite song of your own, or even more.