Even though the songs on Anna Burch's solo debut Quit The Curse are all confident and lovingly-rendered indie pop, there's a sense of uncertainty that envelops the whole album. From humorously quasi-autobiographical songs about dating your drug dealer ("Asking 4 a Friend") or the excitement meeting someone when you're new in town ("Belle Isle"), Burch, a Michigan native and former member of folk outfit Frontier Ruckus, nails the thrills, anxieties, and heartbreaks that come with being in your twenties.
That resonance likely comes from the fact that making Quit The Curse was a transitional time for Burch herself. After a three year stint living in Chicago, foregoing music to pursue a graduate film degree while bartending and working at a non-profit, she moved to Detroit. There, she re-discovered her love of music, rejoining Frontier Ruckus while also writing her own material. With the help of her friend, musician, and producer Paul Cherry, her freshly-written songs took on an exciting new life when they collaborated in his Chicago-based studio. It was her most serious foray into making solo music yet, an exciting time that also came with a learning curve.
"We demoed a song that I had written a couple of years prior and it was so fun to arrange and record with him. When I moved, he was like, 'When you come back we need to make an EP or something. Write more songs!' I kept writing more and kept taking it more seriously, driving back to Chicago whenever I could," Burch says excitedly as she sips a Half Acre Daisy Cutter, a Chicago-made pale ale she's missed since living in Detroit. While those recording sessions were fruitful, some songs, like the title track, felt off. Burch explains, "It kind of got stale at a certain point. No one was excited about it anymore and a lot of them were thinking the album was done but I didn't think it was quite there yet. Some songs felt stiff and stilted."
Needing to finally finish her album, Burch sent it to engineer Collin Dupuis, who'd worked with acts like Angel Olsen and Lana Del Rey. "He told me, 'Here's what's wrong with the record. He was right! I just needed someone to tell me that because everyone else in my life would say, 'oh, it's great!' We re-recorded a couple of the songs that just needed a little more life," says Burch. One of those songs is the title track, which Noisey is premiering at the top of the page.
Listening to the organic charm of the final product, it's difficult to imagine what could've caused Burch's initial unease. Over warm guitars, Burch details relationship that's having a communication breakdown when she anxiously sings, "Knowing that it's not about the waiting / Don't even know what I'm anticipating / You've got all the power once again / I try to fight but I'm stuck in your spin." The breeziness the song exudes on the surface belies its dark emotional undercurrent. " I was just trying to generally talk about where I was at in life. The whole vibe of it is, 'I'm sweating it but I'm chill,'" says Burch.
She adds, "I don't usually share personal anecdotes when it comes to lyrics because I don't just want to be the girl who's talking about the boy. When I say, 'You think I'm cursed" it was because I got a text one time from a person I was seeing that said, 'I was hanging out with this girl and she read my love horoscope and apparently two Cancers are cursed.'" Burch laughs, "People fucking love astrology. I sort of flirt with that stuff but very casually. I guess cancers are notorious whiners too."
Quit The Curse is out February 2 via Polyvinyl. Pre-order it here.
Josh Terry is a writer in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter.