Album in the Crosshairs: Annabel (lee) – The Cleansing (Youngbloods)


Learning that I received an opportunity to hear Annabel (lee)’s sophomore release — The Cleansing on the Youngbloods label — resulted in a feeling similar to what happens after visiting your parents and they present you with one of your favorite meals on your way out the door, wrapped and ready for you to enjoy later.

You don’t want to eat this treat on the subway or in an Uber. I mean you could, but you want to take that first bite in a place where you can have a moment to immerse, reflect and enjoy.

In the case of The Cleansing, I wanted to hear it when I wasn’t editing online content or directing a photo shoot. This moment — which I knew would be special — required all of me.

And I was so right. The entirely prose-driven album acquires the forms of starkly beautiful minor-key arrangements, Bossa Nova stylings, Freak Folk influences, subtle Electronica and spellbinding vocals. The creative alchemy of Richard Ellis’ arrangements, and Sheila Ellis’ lyrics and singing, have created an end product that should help to define a an important slice for Pop music. I became hopelessly bewitched on the first listen.

Plus, I agree with Annabel (lee)’s self-described reference to Nick Drake — I feel his spirit throughout much of this release.

The gentle, Bossa flow of “Far” — the albums first single release — along with “Move With Me” and “Paris, Room 14,” will summon within you images of Brazilian Psychedelia, with wistfully metaphorical lyrics serving as the perfect counterpoint.

The attention to lyrical detail, sung by one of the most articulate voices in modern music today, contribute to The Cleansing’s success. I put my wine glass down and rewound “Paris, Room 14” several times to note the clever use of enjambment, among other devices employed.

Richard Ellis’ acoustic guitar phrasing is also a part of the album’s layered secret sauce. Combined with reverb vocals, the soul of Nick Drake is raised in “Scarlet One.” This spiritual nod continues into the following track, “See Her.”

Annabel (lee) proves it’s possible to follow up a knockout debut release with one that hits even harder. I consider The Cleansing among the best albums of 2017.

The Cleansing will be released September 22, but you can pre-order on Bandcamp, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and other popular music sites. Youngbloods and Annabel (lee) treated us to a live version of “Paris, Room 14,” below. Let me know what you think …

UPDATE: The Cleansing is an album. I operated under the incorrect assumption that it was an EP. Therefore, I corrected my piece accordingly.

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