For having such a brutal-looking cover, Annalibera’s debut album is beautiful. Nevermind I Love You has cover artwork that rivals the fresh roadkill on my morning commute: it appears to be a bird that’s been disemboweled. I only mention the artwork because it’s such a contrast with the beautiful vocals and ethereal songs. Of course, it could be a message about the lyrics and themes on the album. Singer Anna Gebhardt’s clean vocals are like a graceful bird, but she’s spilling her guts in a figurative sense with lyrics about hurting the ones you love, abandonment, and all that other nasty emotional business. Feelings and figurative bird guts have probably never sounded so nice, though.
Des Moines, Iowa-based Annalibera is a trio made up of Gebhardt (vocals, keys,) Ryan Stier (guitar and vocals,) and Phil Young (bass.) This is Gebhardt’s project; after studying classical music, she took influences like Kate Bush and PJ Harvey and mixed it all together to create Annalibera. The result is many things. The band describes themselves as “twang-shoe chambergaze,” iTunes categorizes them as electro-pop. It’s got some indie rock, it’s got a touch of shoegaze, there’s a little synth pop, it’s almost hymnal on “Mountain,” the vocals have an operatic quality throughout. That may sound like it’s all over the place, but Nevermind I Love You has a fairly cohesive sound that just doesn’t fit into a mold.
“Black Cat, White Cat” is the first single and is getting the most buzz of all of the tracks. The song is beautiful and kind of gut-wrenching if you’re having one of those days where you need a cry. Gebhardt’s vocals are higher than on the rest of the album, but not in a forced falsetto way. Her classically trained voice is so remarkable, I kept waiting for it to reach its limit, but the limit never came. On this, and many of the other, tracks, you can really hear the Kate Bush influence. Written during a period of homesickness, this song is about wanting to go back in time and not hurt the ones you love. It admits that “love goes bad/ gets rusty/ but I’ve got your back/ you can trust me/ today.” We’re left to wonder if today means in the present and from now on, or just in this moment during this
retrospective cry session (because let’s be real, she hit home on human nature, we all hurt those closest to us.) The guitars swell through each line, ebbing and flowing. Strings provide a slow, sad background. A close second on the buzz-worthy list, and one song that deserves more attention (listen below,) is “Vermillion,” a song with sweet, almost carnival-like synth; emotion-packed vocals that start innocent and soft and build into powerful. The lyrics about a lover packing up and leaving, admitting you lied, and admitting you miss them feel confessional. The lyrics turn sweet as she envisions them being neighbors and borrowing cups of sugar.
There are some upbeat songs among the eight tracks on the album. “Blooms” is indie rock with a little shoegaze, the guitar even has a little surf sound. “Battle World” is more on the indie rock side, too, as it is guitar-driven. “Moving Song” opens the album with a slow burn over long synth tones. “Clouds” features a conversation between Stier and Gebhardt over piano that suddenly gets taken over by attention-hungry guitar. Quiet down, guitar, these two are trying to work out their on-again, off-again relationship. “Mountain” sounds like a hymn wrapped up in folk music that builds to include powerful vocals. “Honesty” allows Gebhardt to truly use her voice as an instrument; the vocals start off fluttery, but as the song progresses, the lyrics about being left by a free spirit chasing illusions of grandeur give way to non-words that express more emotion than words could.
Don’t let the bloody bird on the cover turn you off, this is a beautiful album. The ethereal, operatic vocals take skills of which many other vocalists can only dream. Frankly, the rest of the album takes a backseat to those vocals. I wasn’t blown away by the more upbeat tracks, but the slow ones will give you plenty of feels to make up for it.