AMY ANNELLE

INTERVIEWS/SHOW PREVIEWS

Texas Music Matters

"The haunting voice of Amy Annelle will keep you up at night. The mind wanders down some dark corridors, and her song just may be the soundtrack to that unsettling journey. Annelle has taken her music on the road since 1999 as Amy Annelle and The Places, captivating audiences with her distinctive otherworldly vocals. This is no ordinary folk singer. She has an instinct for remaining true to roots music while taking it into a different dimension, echoing in the memory long after she’s stopped playing. You can see Annelle’s performance tonight at Stubb’s indoor venue, 801 Red River.  Highly recommended"

TimeOut New York

"As a talent, Annelle is as formidable as she is approachable, something that people were learning at Googie’s; her voice could and is about to be described as high and lonesome. Like most of our best artists, though, she’s way too complex to be summed up easily. One reason she stands out so distinctly from the forests of folks with an acoustic guitar is that she really connects to the past—and can translate it to the right now. When she covered Jackson Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” toward the end of her set, the whole question of “singer or song?” became beautifully muddled; Amy and Jackson were both there, and it was almost worth crying over"

Portland Mercury

‎2010 PORTLAND FOLK FESTIVAL: "...this inaugural event has some mighty heft behind it with three founders—Slim Moon, Amanda Stark, Chantelle Hylton Simmons—who have a combined lifetime of local music servitude under their respective belts.  It's nearly impossible to narrow down this list of performers, but here are our top picks:

Longtime Portlanders surely recognize the voice of one Amy Annelle, a former local singer who traveled east a few years back, eventually settling in Texas. In her first return in quite some time, Annelle
... is armed with a fancy new disc, The Cimarron Banks, of frail folk numbers, each held tenderly together with her wondrous voice and nimble melodies. She'll be collaborating with the Portland Cello Project during their Woody Guthrie tribute, then embarking for a pair of not-to-be-missed solo sets as well." Mission Theater, Thurs Aug 19, 9:30 pm; The Woods, Sun Aug 22, 2:30 pm; Holocene, Sun Aug 22, 9 pm

The Flat Response

"...there was no end to the genres crossed during the festival’s three days, and Amy Annelle's mix of traditionals, country covers and panhandle-inspired originals were a much-welcome opportunity to just sit back and listen to some folk music" Visit link for live recording of the show.

The Austinist

"Yesterday morning I woke to a soft rain in a Maine barn. And by tonight, I'll be all the way to Oregon. Presently, I plan to take two deep breaths." So goes the unconventional newsletter of folk singer Amy Annelle, who spent the greater part of last month navigating Portland and playing shows like a Woody Guthrie tribute at the Mission Theater, the Portland Folk Festival and the Holocene Festival. But Austin's prodigal daughter has returned, announcing that she and select guests will christen Ruta Maya's new back bar with performances every Wednesday. Ruta Maya's an odd duck - it boasts swell acoustics, but on any given night of the week you're more likely to witness Tai Chi with Guy Forsyth or open-mic night than an honest-to-god traveling rock show. The opening of a folk-friendly back bar, however, bodes well. This evening Annelle's guest is Nick Hennies of Weird Weeds, who will accompany her "with improvised percussion." Annelle's latest album is called The Cimarron Banks and was released earlier this summer. 

Oregon Music News

"The Portland Cello Project hosts a tribute to Woody Guthrie, with special guest collaborators Peter Yarrow, Dan Bern, Rebecca Gates, Laura Gibson & Amy Annelle....singing Guthrie’s ballad “Belle Starr,” written about the famed “Bandit Queen.”..she has her own interpretation of them and of the events and of Ms. Starr. That’s called “the Folk Tradition.” And that’s what this Festival is all about. The cellos, mournfully appropriate, kept to plucking and subtle bowing as the waltz tempo framed Anelle’s telling of Guthrie’s story."

Strawberry Flats/Asheville Free Media

"Each week I play something new and each week I'm blown away...Amy Annelle isn’t an indie-kid specializing in lets-play-dress-up pastiche; she’s an actual folkie who just so happens to be operating outside the mother culture...she reminds me of Kath Bloom in many ways, though she feels less agitated and more disembodied"     

New York Cool

"The first song struck hard because of the surprisingly powerful voice...evocative and eerie style...she paints an earthy portrait of American toil and American history that captivates our collective gritty soul"

Crawdaddy

"If there’s one thing we Americanos do right, folks, its take our natural resources for granted, which is exactly what seems to be the case with one of our most woefully unsung national treasures, the Places, a.k.a. Amy Annelle and company. Her voice is strong and lilting, her aesthetic warm and grim, and it all amounts to transcendent and darkly jubilant modern folk. Fortunately, Amy takes nothing and no one for granted, and surrounds herself with some incredible musicians for live renditions of album songs and occasional other treats. Accompanying her at Hotel Utah was a violin and an upright bass, with deaths and desires under the mossy logs of her songs coming through just as clear as the joy in every strum and boot-stomp. The fiddler was Ralph White, formerly of Austin oddball bluegrass band the Bad Livers. A gem in his own right, Ralph performed solo on accordion and banjo after the Places’ set and will soon be collaborating with Amy on a project as a duo. They played with every bit of gumption as they would by the fire or in front of a crowd of thousands"

Billboard

COMMON FOLK, COMMON THREADS "Like genuine folk singers before...Annelle makes music borne up from the land. Keen, empathetic observers, they seem to move, like ghosts, through walls and locked doors and into the homes and lives of men and women they'll never be, yet whose stories are somehow always in part their own -- and our own."
read the whole Billboard article here

City Pages

Sure, the Places' Songs for Creeps offers plenty of subtle spectacle. But the jack-in-the-box electronics, distorted guitars, and otherworldly production flourishes that permeate Amy Annelle's sixth album (fourth as the Places) make her extraordinary scrap-yard Americana that much more surreal, as on the mini-epic "Natural Arc." When a distant doppelganger answers after she sings, "A glorious star that's descending," the Portland native comes off like a less-weathered Lucinda Williams in the midst of invoking Lilith. Exactly why she's opening for Vicious Vicious when she should be closing for the Handsome Family is anybody's guess. We're just lucky to be basking in her presence. Unconditionally recommended. —Rod Smith

Timeout NY

"Under her own name and as the Places, the powerfully affecting songwriter Amy Annelle has quietly put together a body of work that rates with anything you (or anybody) would call 'Americana'. Ghosts and the living mingle in her songs, as well as a multitude of choice covers, and few artists get closer to the ineffable essence of this land of ours in all its great and awful beauty. Expect to hear plenty of new songs written way out there in the Oklahoma Panhandle."

All Music Guide

"Songs for Creeps" has a crumbling, dank feeling, but Annelle's vocals have a strong, clear edge to them, a slight twangy catch of a lost past returning to a new century"

Crawdaddy

The Places Songs for Creeps (High Plains Sigh, 2006) Amy Annelle’s time will come. Her albums are already generally well received, and garner predictable comparisons to Emmylou, Welch, and Waits. Columnists in local weeklies often take initiative to preview or review her shows favorably. Her songs roam through states of brooding, tradition, clamor, and cheer, each branded by the fire of her voice—storm-honed, jagged, and ageless as driftwood. She’s backed up Jandek, and Okkervil River, and plays often with the legendary Michael Hurley. Yet what remains is for “Annelle” to become the household name it deserves to be, even if only in the music-obsessed houses of record stores, practice rooms, rock-crit namedropping pageants, and creaky-floored rural haunts that smell of whiskey, ash, and detritus-caked boot prints, and Songs for Creeps is the album that should have made it happen. In roughly 10 years, whether under her own name or with backup as the Places, Annelle has never made a bad album. In fact, she’s made nothing but a string of exceptionally solid and beautifully forlorn albums—a claim which few artists working today can make (not that she necessarily would—I’m making it for her). Songs for Creeps remains the latest kink in that twine; the third proper Places LP if you exclude 2005’s fantastic covers album, Fawns With Fangs, and the two strictly solo records released under her own name, though it’s the sixth Annelle-based album overall. While it did garner some requisite praise in its day—a 7.6 from Pitchfork a month after its release; an eventual #8 spot on one of the Billboard Critic’s Choice Top 10s of 2006—it still somehow failed to generate the sustained buzz it deserved. After all, it did fall between two hotly anticipated albums by two other established giants in the indie-folk field: Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s immaculate The Letting Go in September, and then Joanna Newsom’s feverishly awaited Ys in November. While neither bares much similarity to the Places, there’s nevertheless an overlap of presumed audience, and for fans of these still-forming folk strata, it was a lot to take in. Couple that with the relative disadvantage of being self-released (High Plains Sigh is the record label run by Annelle for the express purpose of publishing her own works), and what you’ve got is a dark horse on a desert island. Teeming with trepidation and spiritual tumult that's at once existential, artistic, romantic, even sexual, Songs for Creeps conquers its pitch darkness through the light of the escape that is its own melodious transcendence. While not as deliberate as a concept album, themes of doubt, the impossibility of true self-expression, and escape by ways of death, drugs, sleep, and sex run artfully and harrowingly throughout. Both musically and conceptually, Creeps is as strong as it is bleak from start to finish, while also displaying a breadth of songwriting capability, as well as creativity in the recording and production. It sports just enough studio flare and psychedelic accentuations to sate the indie set, yet remains authentic and timelessly rustic enough to fly just as well on the overcast stages of outback county fairs. It’s an inadvertent niche, limited only by a listener’s capacity for the undauntedly morose. (“Slit me up from gut to throat and call it a victory,” sings Annelle in “Mercy Me”, in but one of the album’s more tormented passages.) Yet along with the lyrical omnipresence of wraiths both literal and emotional, there’s a warmth and redemption exuded in the execution of these songs that spreads from underneath them like the expansive roots of an underground fungus. Annelle’s studio craftiness and highly capable partners bring the Appalachian-Gothic rehab folk of Creeps to such Technicolor fruition that it’s easy to take for granted its juxtaposition of the more laissez-faire atmospherics (and slight hiss) of three songs self-recorded straight to four-track cassette. “I’m A-Gone Down to the Green Fields”, for example, is a striking four-track gem sandwiched between two deft studio productions. In this angelically harmonized, poison-flowered dirge to the sort of windowless bar in which the hopeless start drowning sorrows before noon, the singer agonizes over the inadequacy of expression in the midst of deep frustration, all by way of graceful acoustic strumming and gorgeous vocals. The backdrop of tape noise, though audible from the start, becomes only the tiniest bit intrusive towards the track’s end, as soft, lingering guitars float off for a half-minute of ethereal psychedelia, after which its whisper subsides seamlessly into the next subtle drone—the deep bass hum of the following song, “Such as the Earth (Neveroff’s Fate)." “Such as the Earth” then leaps into the saddle of an upbeat boot-stomp gallop (called “bron-y-aur stomps” in the liner notes) and a major, anthem-strength melody, and springs altogether from a chapter of Tolstoy’s Resurrection, in fact borrowing its title and other lyrical phrases directly from the great work’s prose. (Apparently Tolstoy is to Places as Tolkien is to Zeppelin.) It’s a chapter in which characters react to news of the suicide of an associate, Neveroff; in the song, the singer encounters Neveroff in a dream of the afterlife, where the two commune in silence, underwater. “I wasn’t much for talking, neither was he, and so we got on beautifully” she sings, tethered once again to the pain of being incapable of expressing herself in words, yet this time elated by the opportunity not to bother, or to escape the need at all. Though consistent in its troubles, the album never defaults to any predictable whine or woe. Rather, it delves nakedly into its anxieties with an intensely (if downtrodden) human precision and timeless folk fortitude. Truly an album of distinction, every song on Creeps stands up to such close consideration, while it’s just as magnetic when left to play through its entirety and enjoyed solely for its melodic peaks and rivers. Hell, even the artwork is striking. It’s the Places album that would be queen, clearly delineating Annelle as an artist to be watched, tracked, and paid regular attention to, lest one day she buck up and cease responding to the demon muses anchoring her to such creature coffins and the dank, living soil between them and us.

Austin Chronicle

FRIDAY PICK/SXSW 7:30pm, Stephen F's Bar When not strumming alongside Austin multi-instrumentalist Ralph White in Precious Blood, Annelle's fine as wine solo. Her spare country-folk comes alive on latest LP The Cimarron Banks, a naturalistic view and haunting way with melody spanning folk tradition from Appalachia to Wyoming.

Wilamette Week

[NOISE-DRIVEN COUNTRY POP] Amy Annelle, an early Hush Records artist and former Portlander, has found a home on the road. She's been traveling under the name The Places—which originally referred to her specific band but is now a catch-all moniker for whoever she plays with—since 2003. On the Places' new record, Songs for Creeps, that list includes Jay Pelicci of 31Knots, Portland-based guitarist Paul Brainard and Brian Beattie, who also co-produced the album (he also produced Okkervil River's fantastic Black Sheep Boy, on which Annelle is "the lady singer"). Playing with Annelle in Portland will be Oakland musicians Joshua Housch and George D'Annunzio. WW recently spoke with Annelle via email from Austin. CASEY JARMAN.

 What did living in Portland do for your music? 

 I love Oregon. It's my favorite state. Portland was more sleepy and secret when I first got there in '98. A wave of musicians were finding their voice and slaving away in the laboratory, brewing up what would be some of the bands and albums that Portland is now famous for. It was like a dream, walking around in the rain and the silvery light, working out songs in my head...I made four albums in Portland, and the creativity, diversity and work ethic of the people I know from that time—the musicians, people running labels—was pretty intense. Everybody believed. I'm sure a lot of great things are happening in Portland nowadays, but it was getting too crowded, and I was feeling lost.

How did you learn to sing? I was not a natural singer or charismatic, talented child. I had to find my voice the hard way—through the initial horror of hearing oneself on tape for the first time, the self-consciousness...blasting through several layers of bedrock to get to the core, where it resonates by itself and just uses me as a conduit. My favorite key to sing in lately is E flat, which I just found out is the key the earth resonates in.

How do you stay afloat financially while always on the road? 

I sell my albums and play shows, and pick up work as needed. I've been a laborer, a forest ranger, a cook, a carny, cleaning lady, bartender. I've done drug studies and medical experiments, I've busked on the street and in the subway. I can't hold down straight jobs. It's just a matter of time before I get the guillotine. But that's all right, there's nothing I want to do besides make more music.

 

 

IndieFolkForever

Amy Annelle on The Lumpy, Bumpy, Long and Dusty Road. Click link for interview.

Rocky Mountain Chronicle

1. How and when did Joe Carducci and David Lightbourne first contact you about doing the Upland Breakdown? It was the doing of my friend Michael Hurley. It was last year. I remember calling the phone number Michael gave me to see about joining this mountain hoot. I got a scratchy land line up in Wyoming and shot the breeze with David Lightbourne about music for a long time. I got a good feeling. I was in the yard, under the stars, this empty high plains house I was staying in. I went inside afterwards and slept in an old pine paneled room with apocryphal shit carved in the walls. 2. Lightbourne told me in an interview that, to him, the Breakdown attracts “musician’s musicians who aren’t in it for commercial success. People who have an insanely huge positive rep in the musical community, old timers who are playing for the fun of it” and fans who “want the most un-fucked-with music.” (by un-fucked-with I think he means a lot of glossy, commercial studio sheen). Do you agree with this summery of the Breakdown and how do you think that your musical philosophy and aesthetic jibe with Lightbourne’s view/the other artists at the Breakdown? I think it's a time warp to where people play music and experience music together to celebrate, to get gone! And it's high in the mountains, so it's easier to get gone. For the musicians I'd imagine it's also a celebration of the best kind of long, passionate, fucked up love affairs with personal muses. 3. Your press material says that The Places have a history of playing out-of-the-way venues (say for instance, Centennial, Wyoming and LaPorte, Colorado) as well as traditional ones (say New York’s Town Hall). Do you make a special effort to play the lesser-known places? Do you enjoy the experience of playing a honkey tonk in rural Colorado more than playing a well-known rock venue or do you appreciate both equally? Does your set change when confronting a crowd that is only accustomed to say, a standard, modern country juke box? I do like out of the way places, they give you more room, and better prospects of finding a ghost town to explore. They attract a different lot. Folks in out of the way places tend to be less concerned with contextualizing music, they trust their gut and if they're feeling it. I love playing wherever there's folks who want to take a load off, or get gone, or listen. It seems like people are seeking the same thing in music, no matter where they are. Sometimes there's more static but hopefully certain things click and the circuit is completed. 4. I’ve read that the Places are a revolving group of musicians. Who will be accompanying you at the Breakdown shows? Will you be bringing gear that approximates the atmospheric sounds of Songs for Creeps or will it be a more stripped down set? This tour finds the Places as a fractious acoustic duo, myself on 1933 Gibson L-00 guitar and vocal chords, and Ralph White accompanying on fiddle and other sounds, found and made. Ralph is also playing a solo set on Saturday, I accompany his set some on guitar and voice. Ralph was a core member of country freaks The Bad Livers back in the 90s. He's got a highly personal and psychedelic style that's immersed in ancient rural folk musics and the echoes of strange solo voyages. 5. The lyrics on Songs for Creeps are great. I get a strong feeling of the road or constant travel itself as being just as important as a character in your songs as, say a lover or a friend. Most of what you describe on the album isn’t the average Kerouacian sense of the road as wild and ecstatic freedom, either, but a complex place that hurts as much as it helps. The phrase, “blackness stays behind if we just keep moving” on “Blessed Speed,” in it’s own dark way, sees the road as savior, but, a song like “Mercy Me” feels absolutely fed up and defeated by transience, the cheap motels, the walls rattled by semis. How do you see the road or constant movement as important to your songwriting? Why do you find it fascinating as a subject? Thank you. I think the songs answer those questions better than I could! Also, in your press materials, you are described as someone who “lives on the road.” How central is experience to your songwriting? For example, these songs don’t seem like they could come from someone living in a city, or even someone who stays in one place for any extended period of time. Please excuse the clichéd question, but do you consider yourself an artist who needs to suffer for her art? I lived to tell these tales. It lends some substance to ephemeral things that otherwise would just be hounding me and might be hounding you, too. 6. Another thing I really admire about your songwriting is its visceral quality, your ability to get to the guts of a feeling. A song like the “Lion’s Share,” it’s all bloody and fleshy and fearless in it’s description of basically consuming someone else and moving on. Do you feel like you’ve developed this skill naturally or has it been a long conscious process with a lot of literary and musical influence? Mostly it's been overcoming fears. Brandishing my sword, but also knowing how and when to take off my armor. In that sense I feel I've just begun. 7. The atmospherics on Songs for Creeps are fascinating. What are some of the more notable or strange tools that you used to get the sounds? I'm glad you dig. There's nothing fancy, just imaginations working to make natural environments that lend to the telling of the song story or state. Like when you get afraid of something insignificant and give it all kinds of weird power, or love some small thing and invest it with beauty and meaning that might take a while for somebody else to appreciate, if they can at all. 8. Do you have another recording project in the works? What’s next for the Places? And, when will the Hurley tribute be out? That is terribly exiting! Yes, two albums are in the works! Ralph White and I are doing a collaborative project together, we're making an album of our crooked versions of old traditional songs. And I am very excited to be embarking on a new original Places album this winter. I don’t' know when the Hurley tribute is coming out. I think an Irish label is putting it out. Eventually.

Columbus Dispatch

• Amy Annelle and the Places — 8 p . m . Tuesday in Used Kids Records , 1980 N . High St . ( 614- 294-3833 ) Annelle, who has toured with the Decemberists, played her only other concert in Columbus with one of Lucinda Williams’ idols: singer-songwriter Michael Hurley. Having spent time as a carnival worker, forest ranger, chambermaid and all-around scrappy laborer, the roving singerguitarist has accumulated many experiences to draw from when writing songs. Annelle will showcase tunes from her latest album of leftfield folk-rock, Songs for Creeps.

The Onion--AV Club Pick of the Week

Amy Annelle has as many addresses as she does bandmates: the exhaustingly restless and prolific singer-songwriter wanders the country playing shows under the name The Places, and has recorded with and/or collaborated onstage with members of Okkervil River, The Castanets, The Sadies, The Decemberists, The Thermals and Death Cab For Cutie, to name just a few. After lauded releases on Hush and Absolutely Kosher, her most recent disc is a mail-order-only covers album called "Fawns With Fangs: Selections From the Dark Heart of the Thicket", which includes tributes to everyone from Bert Jansch to Heatmiser. Her upcoming full-length "Songs For Creeps" is due in October on her own High Plains Sigh label. While Annelle's solo appearance at Chielle is free, donations will surely be welcome. Opening: Bad Weather California, Clotheshorse.

Westword

A native of Portland, Oregon, Amy Annelle is currently wandering around the no-man's-land that surrounds the old airport in Northwest Aurora. Her nomadic tendencies have led her to a part of the city from which few would draw inspiration. There's a sense of isolation there, though, that fuels the music of The Places, a project led by Annelle -- who recently guested on Okkervil River's excellent 2005 effort, Black Sheep Boy -- that features a revolving cast of players. Taking on rock, folk and psychedelic covers on her latest disc, Fawns With Fangs: Selections From the Dark Heart of the Thicket, Annelle and company reverently pay tribute to Led Zeppelin, Pretty Things, Syd Barrett, Michael Hurley and Elliott Smith. Annelle has saved her own deeply personal songwriting for Songs for Creeps, the experimental and atmospheric followup to Fawns slated for release this October. Catch the Places this Sunday, August 27, at Chielle.

Erasing Clouds

Amy Annelle's songs don't easily fit into categories, as the best don't. They're haunting, though, and raw and often filled with a strange beauty. If you don't believe me, listen to the Places albums Call It Sleep (Hush) and The Autopilot Knows Best, or under her own name, A School of Secret Dangers (Hush). Currently weaving its way into my brain is The Places' new ragtag covers album, Fawns With Fangs, featuring tortured and time-stopping versions of songs by Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, Bert Jansch, Elliott Smith, and others. It's the first release on the new label that Annelle started, High Plans Sigh, which will be releasing the next Places album, of original songs, Songs for Creeps, on October 10. To hear a ton of songs and keep up with the latest information, check out www.highplainssigh.com ************************** What aspect of making music excites you the most right now? Getting the hell back on the road and touring. What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged? Making music is the best. It is a parallel world to the "real world" and I am truly grateful: without it I would never feel at home. I try not to get discouraged when I have to do real world stuff like work crappy jobs between tours, because it's just a matter of time before I get to split. What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc). A few months ago I started a record label called High Plains Sigh. The first release was a backwards covers album called Fawns With Fangs: Selections From the Dark Heart of the Thicket that's all live and 4-track home recordings. I say backwards because covers albums are usually premeditated, the songs are carefully selected to represent influences, and then are recorded in a studio. Whereas these are songs that I love that I had recorded at home, or they were part of a live set or radio show that managed to get recorded. They were not intended to wind up together, but now they make a picture together in their own way. I'm waiting for the next release to come back from the factory. It's the new Places album Songs for Creeps that I made with Brian Beattie in Austin and Jay Pellicci in San Francisco. We'll be touring to support it in the fall. Adam Kriney and I and some other friends are going to make an improv album of some of my weirder unrecorded songs this fall in New York, to be called Giant Metal Butterflies. The houses in the high plains town I've been staying in have all these giant metal butterflies attached to their sides, and I am documenting them with photos as if they are a newly discovered species. I am in the process of inviting music makers I admire to do duets with me or each other for another High Plains Sigh project. I'd like to do something fun like a subscription series of 7" duet singles, with each person choosing a side, or two disparate artists doing the same song. What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording? I often record and play in vibrational places. You are surprising the ghosts, or the birds who live in the eaves or the mice under the floor, and the acoustics are usually very distinct. Depending on whether there's walls, if the windows are broken, if there's dirt or wood or linoleum on the floor, if the wind is blowing. On Thanksgiving a ways back Kyle Field, Ryan Stowe and I wrote a song on a beach on the Pacific Ocean, and recorded it in my van with the door open, with seagulls and waves and kids on skateboards. A friend and I made improvised guitar recordings in ghost towns and abandoned pioneer houses all over eastern Oregon, including a collapsing barn with a horse looking through the window, and a beautiful Victorian farm house in a valley that had been flooded and abandoned, and on the floor was a letter from a girl to her soldier brother in Vietnam. Recently a recording session was sabatoged in the abandoned performance hall of Fred Waring (the big band/vocal pop group leader from the 1930s—1970s). My friend Lou lives in a spooky little town on the Delaware River, across from Fred Waring's old world HQ. It's a beautiful grand 1930s building that's very much intact, with a swooping staircase that you're supposed to walk down in an evening gown with a highball in one hand and a big long cigarette holder in the other. We ran a 250' extension cord through the window and brought a 4-track cassette recorder up to the main space and set up two microphones. The acoustics were amazing: like 25 foot ceilings, ceramic tile floors, and darkness with a few candles to see. We were just getting the tape rolling and this radio interference kept breaking through the signal path, and I was like: uh-oh, that's a two-way radio…a cop came up the stairs in the darkness and was taking this bizarre approach, being all "cool" and talking the "lingo" with us because he thought we were up there smoking crack! He handcuffed Lou but not me, I think because Lou had a beard and cops are scared of beards. When we told him what we were really doing, he felt sort of bad about breaking it up, and helped roadie our gear out of the building. I think the West is the best to do that sort of thing. People aren't as uptight. It seems like the east is full of security guards and nosy neighbors. In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music? I am influenced by the energy of new musicians I meet, by the voice of the author of the book I am reading, by the regional accent where I stay, by the way the birds sing and how the clouds develop in an afternoon and the sound of the general maintenance level of cars being driven by. I stayed in an empty house a little while ago where somebody's CB radio was coming through on my 4-track. So I spent a lot of time recording, in exquisite detail, this guy's vitriolic rants about his CB-world enemies. I am a creature, when there's not a tree around I get really worried. I can't stand strip malls or those creepy new subdivisions they build in empty sun-baked fields. When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it? The one I wrote most recently is called "I Heard the Bird Part II" with just words and sort of a melody and my 60's Maestro drum machine through a Memory Man delay. I recorded the parts together, and was playing the delay like an instrument, to make the drum machine freak out and abstract the lyrics. One of them is "I don't want to feel your feathers if it stills your wings; won't look into those green eyes if it stops your singin'." It might be something we can do live and improvise each night. As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is? Equally as interested. I go in binges. I can be a real hermit sometimes. Then when I really love something new I listen to it a lot, and lose myself in that music, and am writing little parts around theirs or come up with tangents in their style. This happens a lot at live shows--last week I rode the cosmic waves with the Bill Frissell Quintet! It was awesome! Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener? (Old or new music? Music like yours or different from yours?) My main music collection has been in storage since we left for a long tour last spring. I ended up in a different town, and so have been listening to records and tapes I get at thrift stores, bands we met on tour, and compilations that people have made for me. Most recently have been digging some brilliant stuff from all ages, like Porest, Chrysalis, Chrome, Bert Jansch & John Renbourn, Captain Beyond, Lewis & Clarke, Roy Harper, Josephine Foster, Ronine Lane, Ariel Kalma, Arbouretum, The Gun Club, Circle. Then another friend sent a rosetta stone of 40s and 50s music: Memphis Minnie, JB Lenoir, Amos Milbourn, early Roy Orbison. I am playing the shit out of a nice vinyl copy of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" I got at the thrift store, it has all the sleeves--the artwork alone takes hours to look at. Also, I was surprised to hear Patti Smith narrating a song on the Blue Oyster Cult album Agents of Fortune. Who knew. I bought a nice Kitty Wells gospel cassette from an old-timer selling stuff out of the back of his van at the flea market. Some interesting CDRs have come my way from overseas: a friend in Austria sent me his favorite contemporary American song makers, Richmond Fontaine and David Pajo and Dolorean and Damien Jurado and Smog. And a collective of kids from Bangkok sent their psychedelic and improv music. Name a band or musician, past or present, who you flat-out LOVE and think more people should be listening to. What's one of your all-time favorite recordings by this band/musician? The self-titled first record by the British psych band July, from 1967. They were all about 19 or 20 when they made it and it rocks and it is experimental and earnest and whimsical and serious and confused and totally un-selfconscious. I love everything about it. An amazing, introspective kind of tape-compression galore recording and a complete sound world. You can hear some of their influences, like the Kinks and Jimi Hendrix and Indian music and the Beach Boys. It's like hanging out in the band's imagination, rocking out and smoking a joint, then having one of those existential conversations about love that you have when you're 20. What's the saddest song you've ever heard? Most any song by Harry Nilsson. There's an out-take on his album The Point, I'm not sure what its' called, but it goes, "I can't make it alone". It seems to me that whoever it's about is already long gone but is physically still in the picture. And that can be a far more lonesome feeling, because there is no nail in the coffin yet, so you can still keep opening it up and checking to make sure it's really dead. The song sounds like a last-ditch hopeless transmission. It has these gorgeous spooky modulating piano chords but somehow the vocal melody doesn't seem to change key, and it is only about a minute long. If it was any longer it would probably have people jumping off bridges.

Tonic NYC Preview

THE PLACES is the exploratory song-making outfit of Amy Annelle. Annelle's songs spring from the bedrock of traditional musics, but venture into the avant-garde to create a feral and beautiful sort of folk music that "straddles the fence between the organic and the atmospheric" (Rolling Stone). The Places investigate and deconstruct Annelle's evocative compositions with non-denominational fervor. Annelle will be joined by bassist Jude Webre (Dimestore Dance Band) and free-jazz/out-rock drummer Adam Kriney of LA OTRACINA and OWL SOUNDS.

File-Under/Japan

In the one which anxiety type woman SSW likes, even at this store the second album the dust the Amy Annelle girl in the extremely long cellar PLACES which is led. Already immediately re-visiting Japan! Jay of 31KNOTS is received, the new work third album it is in recording, but some days ago being mail order only, release just did [orukavuaarubamu] ([handomeidojiyake] & numbering to enter) arrives. Amy tunes raised in [maisupe], it is, but in addition the original album it is different, it relaxed 佇 will not, but at all in calling the shank. [kavua] we do ELLIOTT SMITH&HEATMISER, BOB DYLAN, LED ZEPPELIN&ROBERT PLANT, SYD BARRETT, PRETTY THINGS and RONNIE LANE etc. With recent live, Kevin Shea of COPTIC LIGHT you served the back and/or with, the ability woman had been connected after all. You think that now it arrives to around end of the month.

F5

With solo albums such as Which One's You? and A School of Secret Dangers Austin-based Amy Annelle has earned a reputation as one of the bright young hopes for intelligent songwriting in the current independent music movement. Annelle has also earned credit with her peers, many of whom have collaborated with her in The Places, a revolving door band (at times it has featured members of the Decembrists and 31 Knots) that she leads and with which she has recorded the well-liked albums The Autopilot Knows You Best and Call It Sleep. Jedd Beaudoin: You've collaborated with members of 31 Knots, the Decembrists, etc. over the years and now with Andy Piper. You hang with some cool cats. Amy Annelle: Believers! Lifers. Friends. It happens naturally. There was a core of believers that all started bands in Portland around the same time. It was small so everybody knew each other and supported each other from the start. It's inevitable to want to be a part of the worlds that get made. JB: You once described the Places' Call It Sleep album as "like a fucked up friend who wants to unload and need more than you maybe want to give." I think that maybe we all relate to the idea of having a record as a "friend." Did you have records like that when you were growing up or perhaps still? AA: As a kid I defined my parameters with albums, as teenagers are wont to do…. It is also how I made friends, liking the same albums [as someone else], especially if you are freaks, and way more into music than most kids. Albums helped me to put into words and sounds things that I was feeling but were totally confusing. It explains or explores things without ever having to be literal and that is very cool. I still hear records that are mapping out new spaces all the time; I get sucked inside records and songs. I want to know what makes them tick, or just feel it. JB: Are there certain places — topics or approaches — where you won't go, things you say, "I don't think it's right to write about"? AA: I wouldn't ever write a song about eating butterfly wing sandwiches because that's been done to death. Same goes for nail polish songs. Songs about laser vaginal rejuvenation can get annoying after a while. JB: You've lived in different parts of the country over the years — Chicago, Portland, now Austin. Does place tend to impact your writing or do you think that you draw from personal themes and that those remain consistent? AA: Geography does tend to trip things off. I just wrote a song called "The Miners Lie" after waking up on a dirt road across from the miner's graveyard in a ghost town in west Texas. It's not so much about miners, but I started thinking, "This was a mining town, and they did that all with toxic chemicals, so where's all the mercury? Where's all the cyanide?" And that just started bouncing around and stirring things up and then I got a song. JB: Which record from your record collection probably needs to be retired although you just can't bring yourself to let go of it? AA: You'd think something like my 12" remix of "Over the Shoulder" by Ministry…. But, no, we listened to that for the first time in like 10 years and were freaking out about the old drum machine sounds, totally brutal and simple but kind of cute at the same time. That same night we busted out the Liquid Sky soundtrack, which was crazy and way different sounding too with all that perspective. Also, I have one of those DJ turntables with pitch control, [so] anything you listen to at a different speed becomes a new beast — like Billie Holiday at 25 RPMs. Or Shellac. JB: Joan Baez or Carly Simon? AA: I want to interview both of them for a book on the heyday of the swinger-songwriter scene. JB: What's the longest, dullest, most soul-draining stretch you've ever driven (or experienced as passenger)? AA: On one tour the shows got booked in such a way that we drove the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area six times in three days. I was going out of my mind. Once [a friend] and I got in a huge traffic jam in the middle of Washington state and it took us like six hours to go 50 miles. But if there's not traffic, I am cool with pretty much any drive, I like moving. JB: Black Sabbath or Judas Priest? AA: Both! Then Blue Oyster Cult. Then Rush's Hemispheres. Then Thin Lizzy.

CD Times

Hearing shortwave transmissions from a sweet, troubled soul Cole Hons, for the CDT Portland, Ore-based group The Places will grace the Roustabout! stage later this week, so I gave their latest disc a listen to get an idea what they're about. I found they're about being as restlessly restful and creepily soothing as a Sunday afternoon nap on the couch with the curtains drawn, when the radio is left on down the hall, and you get lost between your dreams and your pillow and the sounds drifting through, never quite sure where any of it begins or ends. The aptly titled Call It Sleep the second release by the Places, is as intimate and affecting a record as you're likely to hear anywhere. Singer and sole songwriter Amy Annelle is the graceful lynchpin around which the Places' music slowly, surely turns. And it's her calm, meditative approach to heartbreak and self-examination that drives the rest of the band to make this disc a real winner. On the downtempo, and often downright spooky songs that make up this perfect cycle of eight songs, her clarion-clear, tender voice produces impressions of bruises slowly healing. In fact, the Chicago-born Annelle is the only permanent member of the Places. The band consists of her and a rotating cast of talented and sublimely empathic musical friends from the tight-knit Portland music scene. In between the Places' records, the charmingly disarming Annelle puts out solo releases all by her lonesome. She's become something of a critics' darling, and her rep as a potent new voice on the American musical landscape is well-deserved. Annelle posseses a rare gift for poetic imagery and quietly powerful singing, often in delicate harmony with herself. Her literary interests spill over into her titles, too—Call It Sleep is named after a 1934 book by Henry Roth. In addition to her love of literature, Annelle is a big fan of the idiosyncratic medium called shortwave radio, and she often lets random sounds culled from its mysterious frequencies intercut the tracks on her records, lending them a dreamy, surrealistic feel. The detritus of a perpetually touring lifestyle weaves its way through Annelle's songs as well, with titles such as 'Travel Light' and lyrics about 'a sailor like me'. And though this record is quite soothing, there is some seriously heavy darkness to its imagery. On the final track, 'Til the Death', she really lets loose, "fight til the death/I'll see you in the next life. with a dull blade/it could take all night." If you're looking for musical comparisons, Liz Phair's first record and the Dirty Three come to mind, as does Jesse Sykes, Calexico and Califone—all the dreamy, intense stuff. Timeout NY describes the Places live as "magical" and if the shows are anything like this record, I imagine this is a dead-on description. For this tour, The Places consists of Annelle singing and playing guitar, accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Paul Brainard, bassist Jude Webre, and Andy Piper, who performs on an unusual variety of instruments including singing saw, vintage drum machine, washboard, field recordings, modified tenor guitar and a doorbell. Yep, this is art, baby. With a capital P.

SwingSet Magazine

Swingset Magazine by Howard Wyman As Amy Annelle and her band the Places are projected through the ether that hangs like fog upon this vast and varied land, the tufts stirred in their wake settles into a sound at once warm, solid, and haunting—strong, relaxed, and yet vaguely scorned, like the chest-borne comet's tail of warmth behind a hearty swallow of straight bourbon whiskey. Portland, Brooklyn and Austin have all been home to the songstress at one time or another, among myriad other, far more remote locales, just as the Places are a rotating cast of talented musicians on hand to support Annelle's genius with their own. 2001 saw the release of The Autopilot Knows You Best, an unyielding and comparatively upbeat debut for the Places, followed by A School of Secret Dangers, a solo acoustic set of passionate yet eerie, dust-blown Annelle originals. Tales of ghosts, mangy dogs and loves found and lost have unfolded as Annelle's songwriting chops have burgeoned towards the striking and emergent quality found on the Places' latest offering, Call It Sleep, a staggering achievement of tranquil, curiously soothing acrimony. The songs seem exuded from a heart evolved well past a certain peril but still beating virulently, cozied up to the kind of restless resignation only expressed through lush patient melodies and expertly balanced arrangements. Swingset decided there's no time like the present to pick Amy's brain on the details. S: Are there any permanent members of the Places besides you? AA: A name of its own gives it more room to be itself. I use my own name when it's only me. S: So 'Amy Annelle' equals you solo, 'the Places' equals Amy plus players? Yes, this is how it's gone so far. The fist steady lineup came together one person at a time, starting with Ryan Stowe when he learned a few songs and came and played with me on the radio. Me and Ryan lived in a big old house and Michael Schorr lived there too, so we used to jam sometimes in the basement, and he recorded drums on a few of the first songs. There was a bad orange cat there named Bert who used to pee on Mike's drums, which is about the worst thing you could do. That house was cool; sometimes you'd get home in the middle of the night and raccoons would be in the kitchen…the most recent tour (with the Decemberists) I had limitations on how big a band I could bring, so we did something new; just Jude Webre and I, heretofore known as the 'Gruesome Twosome', or the 'Small Places'. Jude plays electric bass but is also a whiz on the lap steel and upright bass, and does classical bowing, too. We leaned more on folky stuff and some wierder stuff and did a cover of 'Blue Jay Way' with upright bass and detuned guitar. S: Is there much collaborative songwriting? AA: Nope, I'm the sole songwriter for The Places. I have been in that kind of collaborative situation with other projects, but for this I have always brought a complete song to people, words, structure, changes. On Call It Sleep I came up with arrangements and made sort of a map for recording and asked people to come in and lay the details stuff down. A lot of it was improvised or spontaneous, which I really like. S: Tell me the story behind the song 'Broke Down' (from A School of Secret Dangers') AA: Sure. It was after a show a while back, me and this man who I was sweet on went for a drive way up into the hills behind Portland, where it's pretty deserted. It was stormy and cold and we were looking for a view up there, but couldn't really see anything. We pulled over by what we thought was a park and left the van running with the heat on. We were walking around and looking at the lights through the fog and laughing and being generally crushed out when we realized, woah, wait, it wasn't a park. It was a graveyard. So being the callous young lovers we were, we made a few morbid jokes at the expense of the dead, kissed on each other a while but it was so miserable out and creepy now that we knew we were in a graveyard, we headed back to the van. And just as soon as we sat down in the van and shut the doors, the engine went totally dead! I had just tuned it up the day before, and now it wouldn't even turn over or make a sound, and we couldn't figure out why! So we started walking down this deserted road in the freezing cold and the rain, trying to hitch a ride back down to town, to get his truck to try and jumpstart the van. But nobody would stop for us! Finally this tweaky girl in a Suzuki Samurai picked us up and was going like 80 miles an hour down this twisty, wet road, we got his truck and when we drove it back up to the van and hooked the jumper cables up, his truck went dead. By then we were really freaked out and it was like 4 o'clock in the morning and he messed around under the hood for a while and managed to start the truck, but his radio wouldn't work! B y this time we were like, fuck it, it's cool, let's just get out of here! The next morning my friend drove me up to the dead van to meet a tow truck, and as we pulled up she said, "Oh my god, woah, I just got the weirdest feeling—there' s something up here, and it's not happy". That's when we got out, looked around in the daylight and saw to our horror that the young man and I had been fooling around in a children's graveyard. I just sat there crying and trying to apologize to the ghosts, who obviously didn't think our jokes were funny. SS: There's something serious/heavy to Call It Sleep… AA: Yes indeed. It was the aftermath of a love relationship that was bad, bad news. The album is not about "him," except 'Til the Death'. It got intense really fast but then got worse and worse, and while I was trying at all costs to save it, whole parts of me were getting cut off so slowly that I couldn't see it happening. So by the time it was over I had not only lost him, but I had lost myself in the process. By the time these songs were written and recorded, it was many months later. The emotional or love aspect of the relationship had already kind of resolved itself and I had moved on, but the other ways that It had affected my life had not resolved themselves. There was a lot of shrapnel damage. It affected the way I saw things and people around me; it felt like I had x-ray vision, but also that I was totally transparent. So these songs were partly a reminder to myself that I was still in there, especially 'Ruined New Life', even though I felt like I had been evicted, and was just walking around like a shell or a ghost…it's a lot angrier than anything else I've done, though the angering is more the simmering type than explosive. There are 'fuck you's', like 'What I Wouldn't Do For You'. SS: What would you like to try next? AA: OxyContin. Just kidding. I'd like to try and publish more of my writing; there's a lot of it stacking up. Same with photography. I would like to learn more about printing photos, I only know the basics. I want to learn how to make quilts! Also—I want to try and make one of those skirts you make from a big pair of man pants. SS: Given unlimited time and resources, what form might Amy's "Magnum Opus" currently take? AA: I would like to record sometime with a producer, to see in what direction an outside party would take my songs. Especially a personal hero! Like Jimmy Page! Or Joe Boyd! Or somebody I love for totally different reasons, like Gerry Rafferty, who wrote 'Right Down the Line' and 'Baker Street', the two best lite rock songs ever! I wonder what would happen, his arrangements are insane. Or Jeff Lynn! I am a big fan of ELO, especially the album Out of the Blue. It would be fun to hand the arranging over to someone with that kind of over-the-top sensibility, where perfect tiny details are happening all over the place. But for now I'm thinking of doing a loose and creepy kind of record here in Austin. I have a bunch of songs hanging around that would work good that way.

Copper Press #13

Copper Press isuse 13 by Jedd Beaudoin "Nuclear bombs destroying cities in my head in my sleep, being stuck in a cave, watching people burn up", says Amy Annelle leader of the Places, recalling how apocalyptic images and her first real musical experiences meshed. "There was a radio station in Chicago called WBMX that had live DJ mixing house music at night and I would make mix tapes of that. I knew all the words to "Jam on It" and would sing it on the bus." That may be a far cry from the music she's made on albums such as Call It Sleep, but what came next isn't all that hard to believe. Somewhere around that summer of fear a new girl moved into Annelle's neighborhood. The girl didn't have much of a record collection but her older brother did, which was how the pair first heard Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Smiths and plenty of other British Rock. Those two sources, along with punk rock sounds emanating from the towers of WNUR and WZRD, Annelle recalls were part of her "falling in love with music time," a time, she's quick to add, that still isn't over. "I keep finding new music all the time. I love it when people turn me on to good shit. There's no worry," she continued, "that I will ever hear it all." What we don't talk about in our interview is the likelihood that somewhere in the Midwest or on one of the Coasts, there's an adolescent girl tucked tightly in her bed, dreaming of duck-taped windows, car bomb s and poisoned food supplies and maybe that girl is hearing one of Annelle's records for the first time and maybe those records are, at this very moment, inspiring her to pick up a guitar and write her first song. It's likely because although Annelle's records haven't hit the mainstream in the fashion of, say, Modest Mouse, the underground press and underground music fans alike seem to hold each new Places release close to their breast, whether it be The Autopilot Knows You Best, A School of Secret Dangers (solo), or the recent Call It Sleep. The songwriter takes it in stride, seemingly unfazed by the praise and attention she's received, which may not be surprising for those who've read past interviews with her. She's lived in less-than-ideal conditions and worked in greasy spoons, two things likely to remind anyone that positive reviews and wild shrieks of excitement don't add up to much more than that. Still, there are those albums, and the most logical question seems like, 'What's the difference between a Places record and an Amy Annelle record? She writes everything, doesn't she?' Annelle explains it like this: "When I started using the name The Places, I imagined an identity for the songs that I wrote that would have room for everybody. A name seems to grant more freedom and I'm certainly not the first to work this way". Somewhat less complicated is who she collaborates with—Call It Sleep features members of the Decemberists, the Thermals, 31 Knots and the Swords Project, among others. (She has also collaborated with Tim Perry of Pseudosix and is a touring member of the group). But it's not a case of Annelle seeking out high-profile companions. "[Collaborations have always happened because of] mutual admiration and long-term involvement with similar groups of musicians or similar goals or musical sensibilities. In other words, friends," she adds. "It would be weird to make music any other way. We have all known and supported each other and played music and put shows together and worked crappy jobs or lived in crappy houses together since before anybody's band got big," she points out. "People invest in each other and believe in each other and that's when good things happen." Of course, bad things can lead to good things, as is the case with the emotional tumult the longtime Oregon resident experienced before making Call It Sleep, which borrows its title from Henry Roth's 1934 novel, which chronicles the life of a Jewish boy in a New York ghetto at the brink of WWI. Title such as "Ruined New Life" might stand as some sort of explanation on their own, but Annelle is fairly open about the source for the material: "These songs were written during a very dark and lonesome time in my life. I was lost and had a lot of reconciling to do," she admits. "I was angry with some people, including myself. I wasn't able to express this directly, which might have liberated me from it. [It was like] my worst fears coming true. I think I wanted to understand and I wanted peace, and I think I was reaching out to anybody who had been in that place, where they needed comfort and offering them the same". She concludes, "I think because of that, it's probably a fucked up album to understand or want to understand. It's like a fucked up friend who wants to unload and needs maybe more than you want to give." Whether one chooses to delve deeply into Annelle's lyrics or not, they are refined and articulate. She says that she's aware on some level of the process she goes through when writing lyrics. "I have what is like a channel or stream in my head that's almost always working, whether I want it to or not," she relates, "it's translating things I see or feel into words. It feels like a support beam or an anchor to the earth. It also feels like lucid dreaming, like offerings from my imagination that can be brought back and shared. I write a lot of these things down. It feels extremely personal and I've lied in the past and said that it's not, but it often is. But," she continues, "as these experiences or feelings or whatever start the ball rolling, as these things are coming to the surface in words, I am suspending them, playing with them, and looking for inherent rhythm and relations between them and where their place might be at large, or how they might connect with other people." To further illustrate, she offers this analogy: "It's like a magnetic board or a screen they are projected onto and I can move them around and work with them before even writing them down. I do try to use efficient phrases but ones that have a lot of power or inferences. It's hard to explain writing a song," she admits. "It is one of my favorite things in the world, though. It feels inevitable." There is a school of thought that suggests that works of art—paintings, songs, stories—aren't ever really finished but are, instead, abandoned, left to grow on their own. It's a delicate balance and one of which Annelle says she's very aware. "The hardest part is getting out of the way," she points out. "Songs are like gifts and if you get out of their way, they will give themselves over to the performance, the communication. The only thing stopping it is doubt or fear." "If I have a song that I have recorded or released, it's because I feel like it's said what I wanted to say. In that sense, I probably need to take more chances. I have billions of songs that don't make it that far," she reveals, then says, "Just watch out. Next year I'll unload like, fifteen albums on the public and you'll be stuck reviewing them all, going, "what the fuck is she thinking'?" All kidding aside, we proceed with the question of whether she thinks her pieces are ever finished. "It may be true [that you abandon—and don't finish—them] and it is a gentle way to assuage any lingering doubts about something one has made," she responds. "I think that albums are more like stories and songs are more like chapters. I've talked with other musicians about 'bookends', how and where to contain things in such a way that it's complete or satisfying or logical. This can be true of a song or tour or album or band even," she notes. "Sometimes it is difficult to know where to put the bookends, since while making a record, especially, you're working with a rather [prolonged] time frame as far as how long it takes to work out the details for recording and releasing it. A lot has come to pass since Call It Sleep was made. A lot of stories and they're all as done as they're gonna be. Now I get to tell them."

Village Voice--Voice Choices

Amy Annelle looks like she could be blown across the midwest plains by the slightest of zephyrs. The Places' thread-slender singer has barely more than a scrap of meat on her bones, and her lacy whisper of a voice is as delicate as you're likely to hear outside Elliott Smith's bedroom, so it's damn fortunate her songs carry enough emotional weight to keep her rooted on the stage--and you in your seat. With skeletal guitar-drums accompaniment, Annelle spins downcast tales that meander through dreams of deserted towns, dark stars and broken hearts. They won't knock you over. But they might find you getting sucked in from holding your breath so hard.

The Stranger (Seattle)

Sometimes, the Places play their shows standing up. Standard posture for rock musicians, sure, but when this Portland band does it, it inspires a certain degree of awkwardness in the audience. It's usually just the two of them up there--Amy Annelle and Ryan Stowe--and they play such quiet, pretty music, the vulnerability in standing seems brave. Originally Annelle's project, she recruited Stowe (who also plays in the Swords Project) to fill her songs out with guitar and short-wave radio. Annelle writes all the songs and lyrics and, as the vocalist, is the focal point of the show. Her eyes are often closed or dreamy, and sometimes her toes turn in, like she's about to fall into a chasm. Stowe is the grounding force, his guitar adding calm, spare notes to Annelle's fleshy chords. You feel slightly uncomfortable seeing it; they look intimate and unaware, but you are watching them. Early this year, the duo (with help from a cache of Portland's best musicians) released its first full-length, The Autopilot Knows You Best, on Absolutely Kosher Records. "This record happened one song at a time, over more than a year," Annelle says. "There wasn't a master plan behind it; it was just me and Ryan and our friends on instruments that we were good at, or could make a part on. Most everyone on the record has played in a live version of the Places at some point. It was great to record like that, to get inside each song instead of, 'Okay, basic tracks for everything today, vocals tomorrow.' We recorded it with friends in town [Portland] who had different recording setups (mostly at Type Foundry studios, but also at Jealous Butcher, Jackpot, and on a four-track cassette) before a label wanted to put it out. A lot of shared talent and time and resources is what made it turn out like it did." The record angles down and cuts straight for the heart. The songwriting is studied and careful, guitars taking ginger steps through the melodies; sometimes more upbeat, but often delicate and pointed, like they're looking straight into your eyes. There are airy drum fills, bittersweet violins and accordions, and vintage record samples in between songs; on their own, those sounds are powerful. Of her songwriting, Annelle says, "A basic idea, some words or a musical phrase, usually sets off a reaction that starts repeating itself, and I try to let [the song] do whatever it wants. It keeps refining itself, and different melodies come out, and then I'll go home and try it on the four-track and listen, and hate it, and see what is still missing, and so on. It is pretty much a free-for-all, but in the end I think my song structures are pretty simple and familiar. I write more traditional structures. I like resolution." The songs may be simple, but there's a special secret weapon to the Places--Annelle's voice. She is careful and breathy, as if she's singing stealth secrets in whispers and lullabies. Her harmonies are subtle, imbuing melancholic chords. Sometimes she lets her voice gather friction against itself, while singing lines like, "I couldn't fix you if I wanted to." Her lyrics are personal and straightforward, yet retain a level of the universal esoteric. "Ninety-nine percent of what I write down never finds its way into a song, but eventually something sticks," she says. "There is a core of some personal experience, but once the gears start having at an idea, things will hopefully shift toward being less personal or diary-like, and more open for people to see their own things in." There is space in the Places' sentiment. The first line on Autopilot asks, "Do you long for something you could take care of, or it to take care of you?" (from "Own Your Own Home"). She continues with lines such as, "When you fall hard/you see the prettiest stars," and, "Wait for me and take your sleep/without dreams by degrees." I ask Annelle when it was first apparent that music was important to her. "The first memory like that, I was maybe three or four and I was falling asleep on my bedroom floor. 'I Am the Walrus' by the Beatles was on the clock radio in the next room. I was alone and in the dark, in that space where you are asleep and awake at the same time, and it felt so good and lonely and creepy and transcendent, like listening to the song in its natural habitat." Listening to the Places is much like listening to music in its natural habitat as well--slow and subtle, as awkward and heavenly as a dream.

DC CItyPaper

In the category of loopy singer-songwriters, Amy Annelle certainly qualifies as a star. The Portland singer is said to work as a forest ranger. She named her tour van "Angel the Diesel Van, member of the Diesel Brotherhood". She covers Syd Barrett and sounds like Kristin Hersh. And she has coerced a group of musicians from the Thermals, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Decemberists, among others, to play rock that swirls around it all as the Places. On the group's latest disc, Call It Sleep, Annelle keeps the songs steeped in an overcast tension: violins skid, trumpet notes flutter, a theremin swirls, guitars gently weep. But her voice, a mumbled whispery thing, comes through gritted teeth, and it's a sound you can't pull away from. The Places play with the Decemberists and the Long Winters at the 9:30 Club.

Timeout NY

Someone once referred to the Places' Amy Annelle as the "female Elliott Smith". But apart from living in Portland, being rather skinny and displaying a penchant for subtle, quiet folk-pop, she doesn't have all that much in common with that other singer-songwriter-guitarist. Nor that she'd mind the comparison--after all, she covered a tune by Smith's old band Heatmiser along with songs by Roy Harper and Ronnie Lane. For Annelle 2001 was a very busy year. She toured nonstop and released three records: the fantastic, somewhat overlooked Places album "The Autopilot Knows You Best"; a dreamy solo LP titled "A School of Secret Dangers"; and an EP with a postrocky sort of group called The Swords Project. Annelle stands out by expertly applying interesting vocal phrasing to her vague abstract, poetry-style lyrics ("A see-through soaring lucid true girl/writing stories on a floating blue world"). At a Tonic gig in October, she led her bandmates through a series of dark-yet-hopeful country-tinged pop songs, making for a quieter affair than "The Autopilot" would suggest. The Places' earthy songwriting on such tracks as the blissful "Ode to The Exhausted" can be pretty damned exhilerating, and the group's live vibe is like a campfire in the woods, which should bring dizzying pleasure to folks who'd fancy a stripped-down Lampchop or stress-free Cat Power.

nubesy claros (spain)

Nashville Scene

The Places' Amy Annelle doesn't need to scout for sounds: they find her. On her band's latest album, Call It Sleep, many of those sounds wafted in via shortwave radio, and into songs like the haunting "Dead Reckoning". While Annelle's creations are simple, they resonate with a depth that belies the fact that she didn't pick up a guitar until age 21. Lyrics drawn from the "books and books full of homeless words" she's amassed for over a decade and a revolving cast of players make Call It Sleep a multi-textured work of nocturnal beauty.-Susan Moll

Rocky Mountain Chronicle

1. How and when did Joe Carducci and David Lightbourne first contact you about doing the Upland Breakdown? 

 

It was the doing of my friend Michael Hurley.  It was last year.  I remember calling the phone number Michael gave me.  I got a scratchy land line up in Wyoming and shot the breeze with David Lightbourne about music for a long time. I got a good feeling.  I was in the yard, under the stars, this empty high plains house I was staying in.  I went inside afterwards and slept in an old pine paneled room with apocryphal stuff carved in the walls.

 

2. Lightbourne told me in an interview that, to him, the Breakdown attracts “musician’s musicians who aren’t in it for commercial success.  People who have an insanely huge positive rep in the musical community, old timers who are playing for the fun of it” and fans who “want the most un-fucked-with music.” (by un-fucked-with I think he means a lot of glossy, commercial studio sheen).

Do you agree with this summery of the Breakdown and how do you think that your musical philosophy and aesthetic jibe with Lightbourne’s view/the other artists at the Breakdown?

 

I think it's a time warp to where people play music and experience music together to celebrate, to get gone!  And it's high in the mountains, so it's easier to get gone.  For the musicians I'd imagine it's also a celebration of the best kind of long, passionate, fucked up love affairs with personal muses.  

 

3. Your press material says that The Places have a history of playing out-of-the-way venues (say for instance, Centennial, Wyoming and LaPorte, Colorado) as well as traditional ones (say New York’s Town Hall). Do you make a special effort to play the lesser-known places?  Do you enjoy the experience of playing a honkey tonk in rural Colorado more than playing a well-known rock venue or do you appreciate both equally? Does your set change when confronting a crowd that is only accustomed to say, a standard, modern country juke box?

 

I do like out of the way places, they give you more room, and better prospects of finding a ghost town to explore.  They attract a different lot.  Folks in out of the way places tend to be less concerned with contextualizing music, they trust their gut and if they're feeling it.  I love playing wherever there's folks who want to take a load off, or get gone, or listen.  It seems like people are seeking the same thing in music, no matter where they are. Sometimes there's more static but hopefully certain things click and the circuit is completed. 

  

4. I’ve read that the Places are a revolving group of musicians. Who will be accompanying you at the Breakdown shows? Will you be bringing gear that approximates the atmospheric sounds of Songs for Creeps or will it be a more stripped down set?

 

This tour finds the Places as a fractious acoustic duo, myself on 1933 Gibson L-00 guitar and vocal chords, and Ralph White accompanying on fiddle and other sounds, found and made. Ralph is also playing a solo set on Saturday, I accompany his set some on guitar and voice. Ralph was a core member of country freaks The Bad Livers back in the 90s. He's got a highly personal and psychedelic style that's immersed in ancient rural folk musics and the echoes of strange solo voyages. 

 

5. The lyrics on Songs for Creeps are great. I get a strong feeling of the road or constant travel itself as being just as important as a character in your songs as, say a lover or a friend. Most of what you describe on the album isn’t the average Kerouacian sense of the road as wild and ecstatic freedom, either, but a complex place that hurts as much as it helps. The phrase, “blackness stays behind if we just keep moving” on “Blessed Speed,” in it’s own dark way, sees the road as savior, but, a song like “Mercy Me” feels absolutely fed up and defeated by transience, the cheap motels, the walls rattled by semis.   How do you see the road or constant movement as important to your songwriting?  Why do you find it fascinating as a subject?

 

Thank you.  I think the songs answer those questions better than I could!

 

Also, in your press materials, you are described as someone who “lives on the road.” How central is experience to your songwriting? For example, these songs don’t seem like they could come from someone living in a city, or even someone who stays in one place for any extended period of time. Please excuse the clichéd question, but do you consider yourself an artist who needs to suffer for her art?

 

I lived to tell these tales.  It lends some substance to ephemeral things that otherwise would just be hounding me and might be hounding you, too.  

 

6. Another thing I really admire about your songwriting is its visceral quality, your ability to get to the guts of a feeling. A song like the “Lion’s Share,” it’s all bloody and fleshy and fearless in it’s description of basically consuming someone else and moving on.  Do you feel like you’ve developed this skill naturally or has it been a long conscious process with a lot of literary and musical influence?

 

Mostly it's been overcoming fears. Brandishing my sword, but also knowing how and when to take off my armor.  In that sense I feel I've just begun.

 

7. The atmospherics on Songs for Creeps are fascinating.  What are some of the more notable or strange tools that you used to get the sounds?

 

I'm glad you dig. There's nothing fancy, just imaginations working to make natural environments that lend to the telling of the song story or state.  Like when you get afraid of something insignificant and give it all kinds of weird power, or love some small thing and invest it with beauty and meaning that might take a while for somebody else to appreciate, if they can at all.

 

8. Do you have another recording project in the works? What’s next? And, when will the Hurley tribute be out? That is terribly exiting!

 

Yes, two albums are in the works!  Ralph White and I are doing a collaborative project together, we're making an album of our crooked versions of old traditional songs.  And I am very excited to be embarking on a new album of my songs this winter.  I don’t' know when the Hurley tribute is coming out.  I think an Irish label is putting it out.  Eventually.