Anna Birch – Quit the Curse

Anna Burch has finally made her steps into the solo world with the complex pop of Quit the Curse. The Detroit singer/songwriter has been visible for the better part of her years-long career singing in Frontier Ruckus, or more recently co-fronting Failed Flowers. Yet, within all this, a vibrant collection of solo material began taking form. The result is a collection of deeply personal snapshots into her life which show the vulnerability but also the marvellous songwriting knack she possesses. It still has some of her folkier leanings but there is also an affiliation to some early 90s indie-pop.

She originally stepped away from music completely to attend grad school in Chicago. This respite lasted until 2014 when she moved to Detroit and found herself starting work in earnest on solo songs she’d been making casual demos of for a year or so. Friends had been encouraging her to dive into solo music, and one particularly enthusiastic friend, Chicago musician Paul Cherry, even assembled a band around scrappy phone demos to push for a fully realised album.

“Writing songs that I actually liked for the first time gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” Burch said. “Like, I can do this too! But working with other musicians and hearing the songs go from sad singer/songwriter tunes to arranged pop songs gave me this giddy confidence that I’d never felt before. To me this album marks the end of an era of uncertainty. Writing songs about my emotional struggles helped me to work through some negative patterns in my personal life, while giving me the sense of creative agency I’d been searching for,” she explained.

The nine songs that comprise Quit the Curse come on soppy yet upbeat initially. However, their darker lyrical themes and complex song structures carefully appear after a few listens to give the LP greater depth and consequence. Her crystal clear vocal harmonies and hooky melodies are sometimes so warm and friendly on the surface that it’s easy to miss the themes about damaging relationships, family issues and drug abuse. However, once your ears are used to the glistening instrumentation then your mind begins to pay attention to the darker traces.

‘2 Cool 2 Care’ references a maddeningly absent lover with Burch’s ambivalent vocals used to highlight the struggle with emotional dependence. ‘Tea-Soaked Letter’ then tackles the struggle of communicating with a partner, whilst ‘Asking 4 A Friend’ explores the dark topic of drug use, before the title track sees her tackling feelings over revisiting a previous relationship and the dynamics of cope, with an incessant bassline providing the framework to this.

‘In Your Dreams’ then comes along and is one of the highlights; sounding like the love child of The Moldy Peaches and The Velvet Underground. ‘With You Every Day’, meanwhile, has echoes of Beach House with a slightly more experimental style that hints at her future explorations.

Emerging from years spent as a supporting player, Quit the Curse stands as a liberation of Burch’s feelings that have been on her mind for quite a while. Her debut LP paints delicate vocal portraits of her life that are enveloped in beautiful sonic soundscapes.

Paul Hill