One would have thought only Joanna Newsom could sound like Joanna Newsom…yet somehow, Anais Mitchell manages to sound like her. Or at least, to take elements of her childlike, nasal voice, and combine them with the much more classically beautiful, neo-folk sounds of Edie Carey or perhaps a more robust Rosie Thomas. Her sound is indeed much more traditional than Newsom’s, relying on piano as her main instrument and with more traditional syncopation, and yet one can’t help but hear Newsom in her music.
The Brightness is made to be heard in an under-lit coffee shop, old wooden furniture occasionally scraping on the age-abused wooden floors as people rise to get another coffee or tea, the wind passing coolly by on what is undoubtedly an autumn evening. In that setting, too, the music would be perfect. Unfortunately, played through the speakers of a stereo, it loses some of the gritty, honest, in-person quality that seems guaranteed to be Mitchell’s greatest strength.
That said, The Brightness is a good album, solid enough for multiple listenings, probably in a scenario not dissimilar to that described above – minus the coffee shop. If you like Newsom and Carey and Thomas, well, Mitchell might indeed be the perfect one-stop-shop. And this writer will be looking to catch her at a house concert of café somewhere soon.