Annie Eve‘s debut album exudes a warm air of familiarity which could play to both its advantage and its disadvantage. On the one hand, this is a solid, assured record full of accessible, if downbeat, songs that are bound to appeal to anyone who loves artists such as Laura Marling, Lucy Rose and Bon Iver. On the other, if you’ve rather had your fill of introspective melancholia by now, there may not be that much to tempt you to explore much further.
If the latter holds true to some, that would be a shame – Sunday 91 may seem to have all the trappings of a typical ‘sensitive singer-songwriter’ but deeper exploration reveals something far more interesting. There are very few songs on this debut that feature just Eve and an acoustic guitar for example: the production is layered, atmospheric and mesmerising, with early song Bodyweight being a good example. It may start off with a pretty piece of finger-picking acoustic, but a swampy slide guitar and echoing backing vocals soon transport it to a place of longing and yearning.
Many of Sunday 91’s tracks follow a similar template – quiet, hushed introduction which usually explodes into life halfway through the song. Ropes begins as a dead-ringer for Laura Marling’s more recent work (even Eve’s vocal phrasings seem to echo Marling’s at time) before expertly mutating into a country-rock jam, while Kid Meets World is a beautifully restrained number featuring an hypnotic guitar line and a beautifully mournful vocal from Eve as she intones lyrics like “you’d better get used to it kid, it’s probably gonna hurt….”). And like Marling, the material belies her relatively tender age of 22: at times, she sounds so world-weary, you’d swear this was the work of a grizzled veteran.
There’s no obvious single on display – except for maybe the aforementioned Bodyweight, with its naggingly insistent hook of “twisted…twisted…my mind’s twisted” – as this is more of an album to sink into, to fully immerse yourself in to let these songs soak into you. Eve has a terrific voice: while it could never be described as a classically strong vocal, she imbues every note of emotion into each song. There’s a palpable sense of sadness, longing and regret written all over tracks like August, Rooms and Kid Meets World, and that’s in no short part due to Eve’s distinctive vocals.
There’s also something distinctively unstarry and refreshingly modest about Sunday 91’s release – considering the early buzz that Eve built up by releasing her demos on Soundcloud and relentlessly gigging around London for the last couple of years, her debut has just slipped out with little fanfare. The unusual lack of hype points towards Eve being destined for a career of longevity, an albums artist in the truest sense of the word.
Some people may find Sunday 91 a bit too melancholic, and maybe a bit too in thrall to the likes of Bon Iver and Laura Marling to stand up on her own merits – and it’s true to say that some of the tracks seem to mesh into each other at times. Yet there’s enough of Eve’s own personality stamped on this record to suggest that this could be just the first chapter in a future long and successful career.