Like many female artists with zany ‘love it or hate it’ vocal styling, Anni Rossi’s first full-length album is determined not to make things simple for you. The Minnesotan multi-instrumentalist started with violin at age three and went on to train classically. Having earned a solid reputation for impressive live performances where she plucks, taps and strums her viola while stomping on a box for percussion, on Rockwell her classical training shines through in her dedication to vocal embellishments and melodic detours.
Clocking in at 26 minutes and recorded in one day with the renowned Steve Albini (PJ Harvey, Nirvana, The Stooges) the album seesaws between quirky Joanna Newsom phrasing and nutty folk pop via Regina Spektor’s less chart-orientated work. Obsessed with syncopation, her sound is a kitsch cocktail of pedal to the metal eccentricity that’s simultaneously compelling and infuriating. Her acrobatic voice has an endearing little girl sweetness and her fluent viola peppers the album with a likeable, offbeat atmosphere.
But, like a crazy cat playing with a spool of yarn, Rossi prods a few of her tracks before unravelling them slightly in a flurry of plucking and oddly placed high notes. She does put them to rights before the end, but the tracks that work best are concise ones that balance Rossi’s endearing kookiness without sounding glued back together.
That said, you find yourself pressing repeat on great tracks like the broody, languid -Las Vegas’ and the playful study on love and nature -Wheelpusher’- even Ace of Base cover -Living in Danger’ is made interesting (if not entirely rescued due to the inescapable fact that it was once an Ace of Base track) by Anni Rossi’s determined uniqueness. What makes Rockwell an occasionally frustrating is the fact that there’s so much potential for it to be great, but it misses it due to a few viola-driven detours. This is the first we’ve heard of the ridiculously talented Rossi, though, and despite a few faults, Rockwell is a solid place to start.