It’s a powerful moment when a song is able to drag you away from whatever menial task it is that you’re doing, and divert all of your attention into actively listening. The moment a song changes from being your background filler into a sensory experience. Some songs tell a story, some paint a picture, while others bring back memories, motivate you or give you something to relate to. Anna Sage’s ‘The Life and Lies of Jimmy Fries’ is an example of a song that achieved all of this and more upon my first listen, a rare feeling where there is an instant connection between the music and the moment. So there I sat, having been listening to a queue of new songs to see if anything caught my attention, now fully engaged and having discovered a diamond in the rough. So began my interest in Anna Sage, and what else they have up their sleeve.
Begin Again, Anna Sage’s debut album, released on 17/06/16, is a meaty ten song affair that hits all the right emo notes you hope it will. Jacob Leddy’s vocal style is distinguishable from his peers in the genre, choosing to highlight the final words in his lyrics, combining with his bandmate’s soothing and, at times, oddly upbeat instrumentation to create a number of compelling songs that settle their topics on a personal level.
I always appreciate a good opening and ending to an album, and Begin Again is bookended suitably by it’s namesakes, ‘Begin’ and ‘Again’. ‘Begin’ starts with a soft creeping intro that sets the tone ever so well for the rest of the album. As Leddy sings “I used to play with all my toys but then they got broke / But then they got broke / I used to go out with the boys but now I just mope / But now I just mope.” You know what you’re getting yourself into as the drums kick in and twinkly guitars take centre stage.
Between the two songs, you’ll find a myriad of songs that flow well into each other, making a full listen to this album a pleasant experience, as opposed to a bit of a chore. Fans of Turnover, Prawn and Seahaven will be right at home here, as Anna Sage have crafted a record that maintains the sort of quality you would expect from these established acts, whilst keeping an identity of it’s own. With songs such as ‘Guess It’s Just Bad Luck Man’ showcasing Anna Sage’s instrumental versatility, and ‘I Am The Liquor” is a wonderfully structured display of Anna Sage’s cohesive sound.
This leads me to what I believe is Begin Again’s most powerful song, and the reason I ended up listening to the album in the first place. ‘The Life and Lies of Jimmy Fries’ is a song of two halves, the first a fast flowing story of a love that comes and goes, a sprawling showcase of Anna Sage’s excellent guitar work and the intensity that they are capable of as all the instruments meet each other for the chorus. The second half of the song slows things down a notch or two. An organ takes control of the musical side of things as we are painted a picture of a scene so detailed that it wouldn’t be out of place in a La Dispute lyric book. A story about abusive relationships, desire, lust, cheating and guilt that can only be done justice through listening.
It’s a great feeling when you hear that ‘Again’ starts the same way ‘Begin’ did. A buildup throughout the six minute album closer leads to a fantastic brass-laden bridge as Leddy pleads “Can we begin again?” And so as the song restarts itself with a beautiful outro, I found myself doing just that.
Top Tracks: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Fries, Begin, Again.
FFO: Turnover, Prawn, Seahaven