The Bottom Line
- Songs of the Magi
- Of a Friday Night
- Your Fonder Heart
- Sweet, sweet sad songs about darkness and hope
- If comparisons have to be drawn, think Joni Mitchell meets Nellie McKay
- A lovely, honest, poignant sophomore effort
Guide Review - Anais Mitchell - The Brightness
Mitchell, according to her bio, has spent quite a bit of time traveling the world and commenting on it through song. The Brightness only adds to her collection of observations, musings, flirtations, and demands. She tackles just about every topic here, turning each experience and observation into a verbal force that straddles the line between the personal and political. In "Song of the Magi," to Jesus, she sings, "Welcome home, my child / your home is a checkpoint now ... welcome to the brawl."
In "Changer," to some unnamed untouchable person, she sings, "Everybody knows you / Nobody knows you / I wanna know you," in such a way that each pronunciation of the word "know" means something different. It's the kind of rare songwriting that needs to be heard to be understood, and few artists have managed that skill so early in their careers.
Using piano and guitar, Mitchell plays each instrument until it's dripping with both sorrow and hope, spinning her way deep into The Brightness before removing the glare. "It's like I slipped between the fingers of the century / I know you know what I mean," she sings in "Of a Friday Night." Even if you're not sure what she means, chances are better than not that the answer lies somewhere in The Brightness.