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  • Andrey Psyche

Anna Gordon’s Fern Canyon is a journey full of heart

Photo courtesy of Anna Gordon

Fern Canyon

Roughly 52 minutes in length and released on Nov 2nd 2018

Every song is masterfully composed layer by layer to offer an immersive experience for the listener, and more importantly has wise and relatable messages to share with everyone. In a world full of talented people, the one thing that separates a musician and an artist from someone who plays music is heart. Anna Gordon found her heart buried deep within the Earth, she pulled it out for the world to see, freshly covered in dirt and leaves, and with each song she uncovers it piece by piece, telling its stories of the time spent underground. She slowly cleans and washes it off with the salty waters of the oceans of tears that have flooded the forest floors of hearts yet to be found as she sings song after song into the aethers of this plane, calling upon the wandering souls who are still out there looking for their own salvation. Each song offers a sliver of nirvana and the album is pure cathartic bliss. From her angelic harmonies which can be found in almost every song and lyrics that burrow deep inside your skin like a fresh tattoo, to melodies that squeeze your insides so that you can feel your pulse pumping like a clashing waves, in and out, rocking back and forth with the its flow.

The album was produced beautifully and mastered seamlessly. Each song blends into the next with no problems. Album art is beautiful, has a good balance of light and dark. Gordon is framed in a white dress surrounded by ferns, in a forest, with patches of dark shadows trying to engulf her. Visually speaking, it captures the sound of her album perfectly.

Instrumentation 9/10

Lyrics 9.5/10

Listenability 9.5/10

Production 9/10

Likelihood to get stuck in your head 9/10

Streetlights 2:34

We embark our journey in the middle of the night, looking up into the starts above us. “When the streetlight are out / I have no doubts” in conjunction with “speckled inky skies” and references to different constellations allow us to stand in the dark with total confidence and peace. We can imagine looking up to the heavens for guidance and seeing clear answers form in reference to our daily struggles, getting lost in the moment while the glimmering lights penetrate our minds and whisper gently into our souls. All troubles melt away, the distance between you and the sky disappears and all that is left is a connection that overtakes your whole body, engulfed by oneness.

The song gives us a very gentle melody that rocks you back and forth with Gordon’s soothing voice, accompanied by minor, bright harmonies to really envelop and embrace you, bringing you into a state of comfort.

A Labor of Love 4:29

Gordon dives into the work that each of us do before we invite a lover into our life. She draws an image of her heart and relates it to a physical dwelling through various metaphors. It starts out very bare, a descending four step guitar melody comprised of a simple 3 string picking patter, with a layer of vocals that stayed mostly in the mid range with minor vibrato. After the first verse, we get introduced with a second layer on guitar, a high pitched, bright and pingy accents to the melody that fill in the gaps between the lower tones plus the original melody was transformed slightly with a bounce by incorporating hammer-ons. The vocals are introduced shortly after and have a slightly different timbre, fuller and more encompassing due to the addition of a second layer of vocals that stay in line with the lead vocals, only straying off in time ever so slightly here and there but mostly staying in the background, adding extra depth. This changes in the third verse and the second layer gently steps out from behind the lead vocal melody and begins to dance around it, adding in more vibrato and vocal runs to add greater complexity. In the fourth verse, percussion and extra layer of strings are introduced to maintain the patter that keeps building toward something greater, something more complete. The shaker and the cello complete the sound right where Gordon sings “I would give you everything you could need” and in that moment, it feels as she already has. The fifth verse feeds right on through which includes the hook that has been presented throughout the song a few times “I dug a hole in my heart for you” or “for us” ending the song with the title “Oh, it was a labor, a labor of love”

Backseat 4:00

In this song, we have no home. We have no money. We have no help. We have nothing but our car in which we sleep in every night. Every verse but one beings with “I woke up in the backseat” and strings us along the daily activities, the worries, and struggles in our life. A somber melody moves us forward through lines of pain, lack of energy, depending on others to feed us, and trying to put one foot in front of the other.“How am I gonna sleep, gonna eat, gonna be” ring in our ears twice. “Call all the people who I thought were my friends / no one answers …” plays on our own insecurities that could play out at any moment, “it still feels like there is nowhere to go”.

If you have been homeless, living out of your car, struggling to get by, this will hit close to home. If you haven’t, Gordon paints a picture that captures the experience filled with insecurities and difficulties that you are faced with every day.

On The Mend 4:29

First minute of the song is used to highlight a rich melody upon which Gordon builds a story of tension we feel towards love and being with another person. Unlike the other songs, this one is strummed through. It starts out with a building up to a four chord progression which leads to a second section, introducing us to a little dissonance that builds that sweet tension which resolves quickly, repeating for a second time, and then going back to a modified section resembling the first one. First verse opens with “Won’t you please get out of my head” which summarizes the first two verses perfectly. The chorus comes in with the other side of the coin, about lusting for love and wanting to be filled up, wanting to get lost again in each other again, quickly to be overturned in the first line of the next verse “Won’t you please get out of my bed”. A perfect balance of the extremes of lusting for a person that deep down you know isn’t right for you, but feels good to have around. Gordon says it perfectly in the last verse “Cus in your absence there’s a push and pull” depicting the self to break into two opposing sides in which there is never a victor nor a loser, only the endless battle persists.

Cancerian 3:16

A song that revolves around the statement “I Am”. The content of the song seems to break into threes. Three verses that speak of “I am” as a portion of the self that is created to cope with the world we live in; a fighter, a warrior, a wonderer, and the up and down sides of having to be each. The next three verses speak of “I am” being something deadly and dangerous, a cancer (disease), a Cancer (crab), and a lover, most dangerous of all if you ask me. The last three verses focus on the “I am” that hints at the divine nature of the human soul by aligning with the flow of nature. Being a creator, a sorceress, and the ocean, all rely on being in line with the natural flow to be true to themselves. The song ends by going to the first verse, creating a sort of loop, a snake eating its tail, terminating on the word “beginning” allowing the last syllable to ring out into the abyss.

Fern Canyon (Interlude for Cello in C) 4:49

A nice melody played on the Cello to serve as a break and palette cleanser for the next section of the album which revisits some of Gordon’s re-recorded songs that were released on previous EPs.

Bury Me High 5:12

Sound of the ocean and seagulls open up this song, already introducing a sense of freedom and a full breath of fresh air which serves as a theme for what is about to come. Bury me high explores the desire to be cremated and spread across the planet is a very scenic and romantic fashion, stressing on the fact that she doesn’t want to be buried, “ Do not bury me / I do not want to feel stuck/ Don’t you put me in no grave”. From the first verse, Gordon lifts us up very gently and take us on a heartfelt ride to physical places like mountainsides, beaches, oceans, woods, Argentina, Brazil, the Caribbean, and places that had a deep emotional connection to her life like where she had great love, good luck, where she was made, and where her friends roam the streets. This song takes the concept of death, which people are usually afraid of, and brings a fresh and endearing perspective on it though a masterful blend of guitar, vocals, harmonies and storytelling. A song littered with hooks, there is absolutely no way of getting out of it without singing or humming along while you keep it on repeat over and over and over again.

Addict’s Plight 6:36

From death to dying, this song shifts us down a step and reminds us about living our life according to our own beliefs and standards. “Pass the whiskey, pass the gin/ Cus I am young and I may never be again” is the opening line to another song that Gordon strums away very slowly as a deep bass line trembles in the background and a vocal melody that is extremely versatile and easy to get lost in. Music is about breaking the listener’s expectations and this is exactly what the vocal line achieves so gracefully. The song focuses on the world and its persistent desire to control and manipulate us with lies and misdirection and Gordon’s desire to break free and enjoy her life, it is in fact hers, and she reserves the right to live it as she deems fit. One of the verses really capture this “The world told me all these lies/ said your body is a temple and you are God/ but shoved chemicals and pesticides/ down my throat-ain’t that a little bit odd/My own business, they poke and prod/ But it’s not your body, you can’t play God/I’m my own person or have you forgot/ and I reserve the right to let me rot” Later on she reiterates that even though she might be making choice that could be killing her slowly, she mentions that she at least found herself, lived to the best of her ability, loved every moment of her life and even if she goes to hell, she has no regrets. She then points back to the world saying that isn’t the case with you, and that you were too busy being afraid to even catch a glimpse of what life really is. The song feeds back into the extended chorus which includes four extra lines of other vises sung in a high falsetto that pierces the air, after which coming back down, slow and gentle, to ultimately fade out into silence.

Hallucinations 2:45

First song to really utilize the listeners head space because in this catchy tune, Gordon captures a dreamy sensation that definitely deserves the title it has. She achieves this by using multiple layers of vocals which move in and out of each ear, vocalizations that drift all around the melody, seemingly entrancing and capturing the listener in a vocal net that could compare to a siren’s song in the ocean, lulling traveling seamen to their watery graves. A very addictive and satisfying song.

My Branches 5:07

A song of unreciprocated love told through earthly metaphors of land explorations, hiking rolling hills, sailing uncharted water, and playing in tall grasses. Gordon builds the narrative by sharing to the listener each expedition which was embarked upon and recounts every step of the way “Your rivers ran deep, through the grooves of your skin/ I rowed through them all in a small plastic bin”. Gordon continues with a metaphor of being in a museum with treasures on display, craving to get close to them and touch them but being too scared because of how fragile everything was. The chorus tells us the desire to understand who a person is with relation to another, where one person ends and the other begins. The song ends with six lines that shifts the focus to the lover, asking him “But why don’t you ever explore/ my branches, my rivers/ my forests, my shores?” leading us to a final image of his true intentions “You never left a footprint or mark/ save a set of initials/ you left on my bark”. The touching lyrics that once again, painted a masterpiece inside the listener’s mind, combined with a gentle melody that itself felt like being on a canoe that was being pushed though small waves down a quiet river, created an immersive feeling of heartache and disappointment which grew out of a hopeful beginning.

Please Refrain 5:35

*Knock Knock* no it’s not a joke, it’s possible that the lover from the previous song decided to come knocking on your door, wanting to be taken back, starting the conversation with “All I know is that I got no place to go/ and I’m stuck out in the cold”. You can see the scene taking place on a cold winter evening underneath a dim, incandescent light. Gordon replies “I don’t know, no I don’t know /if I should believe you/ just cus you told me so” and begins to recount her emotional state of pains she has put up with and sacrifices she has already made which she has put behind her and isn’t willing to open up to that sort of torment again. The past lover doesn’t accept it and continues to bargain, to which Gordon recounts the efforts that were set in motion when it was up to him to make the decisions, yet she was pushed aside time and time again, she sings “Honey that’s what I have tried and tried and tried and tried to do”, “and you ignored me, like you always seem to do”. We go back to a chorus that is impossible to ignore and allow to pass by without singing along leading to a modified chorus where she highlights his mental state when he decided to leave, and his flawed thinking which led him to crawl back to her door, leaving us off with a final blow “please refrain from knocking more/ you’ll find another place to go/ but it’s not here you ought to know”. We can put ourselves in Gordon’s shoes and see the door shutting in their face, locking the door to a past that didn’t us, breathing in and walking away with our head held high. For some, one of the hardest thing to do is to is to turn away a past lover even when you can remember the pain that was inflicted upon you, but there always comes a time when dignity and self respect build up, self worth skyrockets and self love take over and we, once and for all, decide to never feel undervalued, ever again.

This is that pivotal moment in everyone’s life, captured in a fingerpicking style melody with just enough dissonance to keep us weary and on our guard every now and again. A four chord progression that leads to a bridge which lingers on a darker chord as the base counts down , three, two, one, dropping in tone, as if you were tapping your finger on your cheek as you were contemplating what to do as Gordon sings “I don’t know”. There is no way in escaping this song without tapping your foot or singing along.

Follow Me 3:16

And just like that, we make it to the last song in which we turn back into a baby and Gordon rocks our cradle back and forth with a gentle, soothing and uplifting melody that brings us comfort and peace. She takes up flying high with blue jays, and get lost in familiar woods. She gives us assurance that everything will be alright and that there is nothing to fear. With her soft vocals whispering sweet words of love and support our direction, we float away. We begin the song by following Gordon, and end it by finding ourselves right where we started, dirty and scratched up but, she sings “I walk through the dirt on the forest floor/ and I do not fear my life anymore” gently setting us down, blowing us a kiss and waves us goodbye floating back to a place not of this Earth.

-written for Dan's Tunes Seattle


© 2018 Andrey Psyche

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