Sound & Vision with Anna Vincent

It is hard to believe that after close to 20 years of making music and being involved with numerous groups, Under The Glass is the debut record to be released under Anna Vincent’s own name. Even harder to believe is the sheer elegance held within these nine songs, which were never intended to be shared in the first place. It was not until she unearthed some ‘loose poetry’ that the songs on Under The Glass slowly began to take shape, and with the encouragement of partner, Max Bloom, they were given the time and attention they deserved.

A finely walked line between bracing Americana and subtle folk, the record may well nod to the greats of the 60s and 70s, but there is a hazy minimalism that focuses it on the here and now – a place where Vincent seems content, and completely on top of her game.

We caught up with her ahead of the album’s release to hear about the records, books and films which inspire her. These are her Sound & Vision picks:

Three favourite albums: 

Joni Mitchell – Hejira

When it comes to songwriting, I’m not sure there’s anyone who beats Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics are pure poetry, and yet they never feel laboured or heavy-handed, and when she sings, she often skips over those sublime words like they’re just throwaway pop lyrics, which only adds to their brilliance.  Prince loved Joni Mitchell (I believe the feeling was mutual), and in many ways I think they’re similar artists: both talented multi-instrumentalists, both from the cold north of North America, both able to create entire novels in just a few minutes with a few perfectly-chosen words. I love all the eras of Joni, but Hejira is the album I come back to the most. I first really got into it when I went to university and I would sit in my little room above the city (eternal loner that I was) just getting lost in the vivid pictures she paints in each song. This is also the era where she’s really getting into jazz, so it’s a great hybrid sound between her earlier folk stuff and this new direction.  And of course there’s the amazing Jaco Pastorius on fretless bass, with those silvery, mercury lines which really tug at your heartstrings. Joni is never afraid to express difficult emotions – the complex ones like ambivalence, disappointment, jealousy, regret, pride – and while she never goes easy on herself, rarely is she self-pitying. People have often said that she’s a difficult person, but I think it’s more a case of their discomfort at seeing a woman fully immersed in her art above all else, daring to take herself seriously.  ‘In search of love and music my whole life has been’ – that’s a lyric I have always identified with.

Elliott Smith – XO

I actually came to Elliott Smith quite recently, but XO has very quickly found a firm place in my favourites of all time.  I have my boyfriend, Max, to thank for introducing me to this record, and we listened to it in the early days of our relationship, so I really associate it with that time. Which maybe seems strange because it’s such a sad album, but I think it really chimed with the intensity of the emotions I was feeling at that time. ‘I’m never gonna know you now, but I’m gonna love you anyhow’: that thought makes me so sad, the feeling of something over before it’s begun, of loss, of resignation.  I love how unassuming this record is; it’s a burning genius that stands in the corner and stares at the floor.  I’m listening to this now as the rain pours outside and it just feels so raw and real; full of sadness and pain, but also heart and hope. And I also love how much he loved The Beatles, because I do too, and you can really hear it in a lot of these songs as these glimmers of sunshine punctuating the melancholy.  Elliott Smith is one of those writers whose songs I can’t unpick; I don’t know how he came up with them, and I suspect he didn’t really know either.

The Beatles – Rubber Soul 

I remember my dad giving my brother and me a copy of this on tape when I was about eight years old, and it was the first actual album I really got into. As a kid, the moment you hear ‘beep beep, beep beep yeah!’ in the opening track you’re instantly hooked, and by the end of that 2 minutes and 28 seconds, we were both obsessed Beatles’ fans. We used to listen to all the albums in the car and I started to see any journey, however long or short, as an opportunity to immerse myself in music (something I still love to do). At school, all the girls were starting to get into boy bands, but I was living in the 60s, and I couldn’t name my favourite member of Take That when quizzed. They probably all thought I was a bit weird, but I didn’t really mind, and I think I realised then that the mainstream was not going to be for me. Rubber Soul played a big part in that.  When my brother got a guitar for his birthday we quickly realised that it might even be possible to play these songs, and that was really the start of us both becoming musicians.  Even though I love all The Beatles’ albums, this one has a lot of my favourite songs on it – I’m Looking Through You, In My Life, Wait, If I Needed Someone – and it’s a huge part of what set me on the musical path I’m still on today.

Favourite film: 

Almost Famous

I first saw this film when I was about 18 at the peak of my love affair with 70s rock music; a time when posters of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were starting to win the battle against Nirvana and Korn for wall space in my bedroom, when my wardrobe consisted mainly of flared jeans and crushed velvet, and the stack of reading matter by my bed was a suitably unbalanced diet of vintage rock journalism, band biogs and dog-eared copies of Mojo magazine.  Considering myself by now a seasoned musician – having played in bands around my local area for all of two years – I started trying my hand at a bit of music journalism for local zines and blogs.  Having already fallen for the wit and wisdom of Lester Bangs, Almost Famous only served to further romanticise the image I had in my head of the noble rock scribe hitting the road with the band, finding a story, observing (and occasionally partaking in) the excess, but never losing the thread.  ‘Honest and unmerciful’ was the mantra and I was fully on board.  The film is a poignant yet ultimately feel-good semi-autobiographical account of Cameron Crowe’s own early forays into this world, and there’s so much to love about it, not least the brilliant soundtrack, featuring America by Simon & Garfunkel, Feel Flows by The Beach Boys, I’ve Seen All Good People by Yes, and many more. But perhaps my favourite thing about the film is the genius Philip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as Lester Bangs himself: ‘I’m always home, I’m uncool… The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.’

Favourite book: 

Thomas Pynchon – The Crying of Lot 49

This is one of only a few books I’ve read more than once, and although it’s short, it’s a very intense and mind-bending trip.  It was published in 1965 and is set in and around the fictional Californian city of San Narciso. I’ve always been fascinated by the mythology of California, and I think of this book as one of the key texts which explores the dark underbelly of the American Dream from a mid-60s post-modern, surrealist perspective. The story follows Oedipa Maas as she uncovers a secret underground postal service called W.A.S.T.E., but the plot is somewhat secondary to the strange and brilliantly named characters she meets along the way, including Dr. Hilarius, a psychotherapist who prescribes his patients LSD, Mike Fallopian, a right-wing historian, and a teenage rock band called The Paranoids. Reading The Crying of Lot 49 is a bit like reading the account you scribbled down whilst half asleep of a dream you had, which seemed to make sense at 4 in the morning, but doesn’t quite add up in the light of day.  Which is not a criticism, but as with all Pynchon novels, you just kind of have to go with it.

A song that means a lot to you: 

Max Bloom – Palindromes

This song probably means more to me than any other. I should probably start off by saying that it’s about me, or at least, about me and Max and how we got together. The backstory to this is that in the middle of 2019, I came out of a long relationship, and at the same time, Heavy Heart, the band I’d been in, also ended (the two events being connected). Max and I had been friends for several years, and had played in each other’s bands, but I don’t think either of us ever expected what happened to happen. One night during all this, when I needed someone to talk to, we met up at the pub as friends, and the next day we were in love. Obviously, the story has more twists and turns than that, but suffice it to say it was an amazing rollercoaster of emotions.  A couple of months after we got together, Max sent me this song. I’d had no idea he was writing it, and I was absolutely blown away when I heard it.  Nobody had ever written a song for me, much less one as beautiful as this, and he really captured everything about those wild, nervous, exciting, dreamlike early days of new love. Also, the way those guitar lines weave and intertwine is sheer magic. Max is such an incredibly talented musician and songwriter, and Palindromes ended up being released on his brilliant second solo album Pedestrian, which came out earlier this year.  He actually produced my album, Under the Glass, at our home studio, and most of that album is me trying to write him a song even half as good as the one he wrote for me.

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