Tonight I am sitting at the table, listening to Andra’s new album: A Sound or Something More. Suddenly, the red wine I’m sipping becomes richer and if it wasn’t for the sweltering Lowveld summer heat and humidity, I would be lighting a fire in the fireplace. The landscape sounds dancing with nostalgia and love, grab hold of faraway and lost emotions buried and treasured in my soul.
With its impeccable sounds and soothing guitar and of course a voice so powerful, it is understood when one visits her website and absorb the words used in section subtitle. One can only feel some kind of awe:
“It is impossible to be untouched by the environmental influences that surround you when you grow up in a space that has been referred to as “the land God made in anger.” – Andra
Andra is well known for her passionate performances and has been compared to artists like Janis Joplin, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithful, and Eddie Vedder, but she humbly states: “I’m just telling stories – attaching the only sounds I know how to make.”
I have to confess to you though (and trust me, I am ashamed): I have never seen this diva perform live. Life happened and I always managed to miss a live performance by Andra. So, do me this one solid and trust me on my review. This album has popped my cherry of Andra-fanism. I now am one, and a big one at that – as from tonight.
The guitar in the song “Are You Free” has me sold so completely. There are many lessons in this song and perfectly captures the essence of Andra’s music: profound, intelligent and whimsical. “Now that it’s okay to be you, tell me. Are you free?” No doubt, Andra has incredible lyrical talent. Insanely well-balanced and a fantastic choice for the first track to this magnificent album and it certainly acts as a catalytic opening for the rest of the album.
My evening at the table becomes smooth and beautiful as I stumble on a track entitled “My Dreams Forget to Join me”. A ballad of flowing sounds steered by the unbelievable vocal capacity of Andra and definitely a favourite on the album. As I move through each track, it is not surprising how each song flows into the next and the entire album suddenly takes on the feel of a storybook. Then I read more about Andra. Renowned for storytelling ballads, I think I may have stumbled onto the next KT Tunstall who has been an old-favourite of my misspent youth. And Andra is proudly South African, which awakens a sense of enormous pride within me. We have come such a long way with South African music, and Andra is definitely a testament to that.
“The Bug Song” starts with the sounds of Andra scribbling and humming, penning down lyrics with a pencil. In the distance, a dog barks, and this beautiful, quirky and ‘friendly’ song starts. If you know Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians well, you will remember a song called “Me by the Sea”. “The Bug Song” is absolutely a reminder of that, but with a new story. It doesn’t take me long before my beautiful 5-year old daughter and I listen to it around 5 times until we can sing along. It suddenly dawns on me the versatility of this artist with the variety introduced through each song.
Being a child of the 90’s and having lived through the grunge era, the dark sounds of a song called “Walls” immediately grabbed onto the Docs-wearing, Cobain-loving, mosh-pit dancer Vanessa. This is an unbelievable track with excellent sounds, a thumping beat and dark undertones. A favourite almost instantly and thrown into my playlist. Beautifully contrasted, this song is followed by sounds that affected me deeply. It may mean what it wants to you, as it does for me. But enjoy the sadness within you when Andra pulls at your heartstrings with “Reaching”.
I finish my glass of wine as I listen to the last tracks (and trust me, you’re spoilt with twelve of them). I feel a sense of happiness in my heart. Andra’s new album is grounding, calming, easy and beautiful. Oh, I do. I feel ashamed that I’ve never seen her perform live, albeit circumstances prevented me from doing so. But a little birdy whispered in my ear that she will grace us with her magnificence this Friday night (09 March 2018) at The Pub in Nelspruit. I for one know exactly what I will be doing this weekend and I’m definitely getting my hands on that new album.
The melodic sounds and rustic ambience of A Sound or Something More will have you kick off your shoes after a rough day. It will slow down your breathing, make you close your eyes and lose yourself in nostalgia, calmness and beauty. It is easily and hands-down one of the best albums of 2018.