From the very opening of Annie Woodward’s exciting solo debut Two Faces on a Clown, the Oslo based folk rocker doesn’t hold anything back. Nor does she make attempts at playing games of lyrical hide and seek, where the listener has to guess at what she’s getting at. Her lyrics have a refreshing directness. This directness may have been born in the beginning of Woodward’s career when she wrote lyrics for other bands and also spent some time doing theater work. It was through this stint in the theater that Woodward found her voice and embarked on her musical career.
From the very onset Woodward bears her thoughts and emotions in a stream of consciousness narrative. The lyrics are a lovely mixture of wry wit and sharp poetics as she enlightens listeners on the opening track “The Drifter” with the lines, “So I ran to New York City/ Cuz I grew up reading Smith/ then I knocked on Hotel Chelsea but today it’s full of shit.” Those wise enough to get the references involved here will likely have a both a chuckle as well as being filled with that certain feeling when one hears a such a perfect line uttered, as Woodward does here, with such a delicate air of nonchalance.
On “Wicked” a blues tinged rocker Woodward cackles and snarls out her lyrics sounding much like a female version of Johnny Rotten. Her raspy vocals add power and weight to her lyrics and are what help to set her apart from the otherwise overused singer-songwriter moniker which is attributed to the bulk of solo artists these days. Woodward does what many solo artists don’t usually do and that is employ a backing band to give her a fuller a richer sound.
When she is working alone however, like on the echoing acoustic “Torn Between Two Gods,” Woodward proves that her guitar and voice are powerful enough to hold a listener’s attention. In a haunting whisper she repeats, “I don’t know if I remember/life the way it was.” Later on the same feeling is found on the dark and desolate “Rabbit Hole” with its hollow echoes; it sounds as though it could have been recorded in a cave.
Woodward also takes a few chances on Two Faces on a Clown, like on the experimental psych folk tinged title track, “Two Faces on a Clown” where she performs with New Mountain. Then there are the two electro-outfitted experiments, “Three Notes” and “Electrical Chains” which she performs with The Suicide Policemen.
Though the folk scene, and all its subgenres have been growing wildly over the last few years, Annie Woodward is a welcome change to that world. Two Faces on a Clown is a work of raw talent, and that rawness can be heard in every note.
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