Quirky, can't be pigeonholed, fresh: labels too often used to describe artists that are, well, quirky, resistant to pigeon holes and fresh. So here's my contribution to the reviewer's vocabulary crutch lists: unusual. In Annie B's case that's a good thing. And nowhere is that individuality more apparent than in her first solo CD's second cut: 'The Kiwi Café'. Like its namesake, this tune is a little rough and fuzzy and not exactly pretty on the outside, but it's rewarding, sweet and juicy in the inside.
On other CDs, this cut's background café noises (gum smacking, orthopedic shoe wearing waitresses serving a bustling lunch (or delayed brunch but definitely not a dinner crowd), cash register ringing and percolating coffee may sound cliché or gimmicky. But you can easily picture Annie B perched on a stool in the corner of the place, so it works. And, in keeping with the aforementioned vocab crutches, Annie B does indeed strike the first time listener as quirky---quirky enough to fill in for Phoebe at Central Perk, though thankfully, with nary a smelly cat in sight.
And (bear with me, the café comparisons are about to have the Closed Sign flipped over on them), as with most cafés/diners, you don't necessarily frequent them for their post-modern, chewing gum collection under the chipped Formica- topped, wobbly table décor. You're into it for the comforting gravy, mashed potatoes, meatloaf and extra thick shake. And so it is with this CD---it's what it does for your emotional well-being that sets it apart from the music world's equivalent of fast-food belly filling.
Annie B serves up sincere, comforting and heartfelt lyrics with a delightful side order of tasty guitar licks. In fact, both the lyrics and the chunky riffs share a spark of spontaneity that's irresistible.
Even her claims of 'changing the world together' in 'You and Me', draw you in, stomping out the last bit of pessimism and cynicism you're harboring. Which is not to say Annie B. is politicking for presidency of the Li'l Mary Sunshine club. 'No Surprise', cut #.6, is just one example of what she calls, appropriately enough, 'Aggressive-percussive stuff', which isn't all that surprising if you've heard of her non-solo stint. Her band, Shut Up Marie (not to be confused with the aforementioned Mary), is built on a definitely un-sunny foundation of punk-metal.
This CD's softer, lighter Annie, fuelled alternatively by angst and optimism offers a clean sometimes raw sound that's a welcome respite from the one-dimensional, uni-themed, artificially sweetened fare that's unfortunately not always limited to character-less eateries.