Cecilie Anna: I'm Here (Familieforetaket CD & Download)
Even now in the joined up, hooked-up, overly connected virtual world, certain things by circumstance or geography fall by the wayside. Privately distributed and largely unheralded beyond her native Norway, Cecilie Anna's I'm Here from 2017 is one such victim of regional circumstances, and the limitations of self-generated social media. For an album that has universal appeal, and one laden with tender melodies and astute, heartfelt observations, it is equally possessed by an assured sense of its own worth. Modest and unfussy, but a collection of refined charm and tender grace, it should be on playlists across the globe. However if you don't know of its existence it remains a secret, shared quietly, enjoyed perfectly, but frustratingly worthy of much wider recognition.
Possessed by elements of Joni Mitchell at her most winsome and Dory Previn at her astutely observational best, this is an heartfelt and honest affair. Imagine a Laurel Canyon sensibility of the early '70s with a chill and a touch of a colder climate. Sunshine and ice, and a glacial elegance. I'm Here will take you there. It is a rare and unfettered gift of artistry in an increasingly calculated world. It also bears a beautiful backwards glance in the fact that it was mastered at Abbey Road, and rightly so. These songs deserve to be heard in hallowed surroundings.
"Morning Star" begins with a Nico-like moodiness. A missive of awakening and the need to belong delivered in a vocal of faltering and fragile sincerity.
"Where am I
Is this my home
If I'm the beginning
What am I told"
A starkly heartbreaking lament for her late father "Summer Storm" has echoes of early Kate Bush and "The Man With The Child In His Eyes." A ballad imbued with the ache of longing and the cost of a love that remains.
"Oh, and I can almost see your smile
Oh, and I can almost hear you laugh
Summer storm has waited long
And I can almost feel the curves of your hand
I can almost see the way that you stand...
Oh, and I can almost hear you laugh
Oh, and I can almost feel your embrace"
A song that chills the heart with its inspiring honesty and a perfect admission of sorrow.
Reminiscent of Carole King at her Tapestry period concision "Another You" visits a hope we've all cherished, but few could distill so succinctly with a playful sense of irony. A reflection on when the reality of what we have isn't what one's wishes might desire.
"Oh, I was dreaming 'bout another you
And yes I was wrong
I was so wrong
As wrong as can be."
Resignation and humor in touching collusion.
"Horses 2" has the sweep and grace of Tori Amos at her most starkly reflective. An utter beauty of a song, personal and haunting, existential and contrite with a sparkling piano track, it has an epic sweep at its heart...
"The look of God just passed us in the hallway
And they answer our prayers
But we don't know what we were asked
So we lay down for the horses of the Lord."
As near perfect as a song can get in lyric and musical craft "I'm Here" deserves its elevation as the title track. Steeped in poetic grace and a languid elegance it is littered with stark images of stunning originality.
"They say women bleed
Men just work at day time
They say sisters weep
Boys just blow their brains out
They say babies cry
To find out where their voice is
They say old folks die
To find out where their souls hide."
Prosaic to the point of flippancy it leaves a lingering impression of someone all too aware of the ways of the world, but without resorting to delivering any answer. A humble wisdom in itself in a song that deserves to be discovered and valued.
"Close To Four" ghosts the melancholia of Michael Stipe's "Everybody Hurts," and the reflective majesty of John Lennon's "Imagine" as it sweeps along with a stilted eloquence.
"Before all this I was on the kitchen floor
I wondered how you look
When you woke and no-one's there
Before all this
I was on the airport floor
I wondered how you look
When you leave and no-one cares."
Stark in its sincerity it meanders to a sweet but assured conclusion that suggests Nick Cave in its brevity.
"Den Groen Dagen" quietly interrupts the stream of thoughts; an instrumental of Satie-like hesitancy. A perfect interlude and a song without words.
"Baby Doll" has the stillness and spookiness of Bjork. Like a solo in an abandoned church it has that hymnal element the late David Ackles utilised to such profound and considered effect. Stark and confident it betrays an artist who isn't afraid of allowing space within her delivery, who knows how not to overdraw a moment by giving in to the temptation of adding more.
"Old Love" suggests the teenage concision of Claire Hamill's overlooked October album in all its natural beauty:
Women in the cars
They must have left their darlings
At the bars."
A perfect vista and vignette, accompanied by a pastoral undertow of rarified classicism.
In "The Smallest Bird" we are gifted an anthem and a carol that allows a Leonard Cohen-like majesty to build and then soar.
"The boxer stands
Light flowing through the ring
his hands on his cheeks
Softly he's whispering
Oh, roll with me now"
Cecilie Anna has a rare gift of finding the poetry in an an image and then like a jeweller she embeds it in her lilting melodies. The song rises and recedes from a sea of of layered voices, but remains singular, considered and true.
All too soon "Flower In Between" arrives as the final cut and as a perfect closer:
"A few minutes of this song
With nothing right and nothing wrong
Just a little less to say
A few flowers less to stay
Just a flower in between
You must have flowered through the seams"
I have been haunted by these songs since they first arrived. It is time to share my bewitchment. Mannered without pretension. Rarified but with an ability to be commonplace, they reveal what can be achieved when a singer lets down her guard and shares that interior world without guile. Her artistry shines through and connects. Some secrets are made to be broken. I'm Here is slowly fracturing in order to be considered afresh, and to be cherished. Pearls from the soul that reflect in the heart.