There’s a whole subgenre of music out there dedicated to artists who end up giving up their craft due to lack of funding, popularity or sometimes even disinterest. Their music patiently waits for crate diggers and YouTube algorithms to help them slowly resurface, seemingly out of thin air, before they can return to mystify the public as a sort of shared lost heirloom. Like Vashti Bunyan and Linda Perhacs, two musicians undeniably defined by their career resurgences, Anna Cordell similarly put her music on hold – the only difference being she didn’t have to wait as long as them before reemerging.
A lot has changed since the 1960s and it’s not unbelievable that a woman these days can balance five children and a fashion label along with her music career. Anna Cordell is proof of that. Like Bunyan and Perhacs before her she has shifted focus throughout the years, pulling her attention away from the nylon string guitar she got her start on and her love of designing apparel to focus on raising her family in the interim. Now Cordell’s back with a new album; one she says is partly supported by the clothing she sells.
The fashion she makes – like her music – borrows a lot from the past, consisting of flamboyantly tailored suits in vibrant colours and endless modifications, each usually custom made for a local musician or artist. It’s that melding of the past with the present that has made her clothing line so popular and that may well seep into her recording success. It’s also, more importantly, very evident in the individual songs on Nobody Knows Us.
The record opens with “After Tomorrow”, a sweet and somber piano ballad. It acts as a bit a misnomer, offering the pretty melodies and crushing sincerity that evokes a certain kind of plaintive singer-songwriter album. But just as that languid pace begins to wear out its welcome, Cordell offers the excellent title track. “Nobody Knows Us” is an effective near-opener, offering a more kinetic pace and showing off Cordell’s full band on a catchy and upbeat chorus.
The rest of the tracks meet somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, although some of the folkier songs maintain interesting time signatures or drum work as is the case on “Tried So Hard” and “Lie Awake”. The more conventional tracks like “Between Too Eternities” and “Wintertime” are able to craft elusive and beautiful melodies that help to define the chamber aesthetic. That sound is really what binds the album, helping to give it a uniform style unique to Cordell that elevates the more conventional moments to become the real highlights here.
The worst points on the album are few and far between, but buried in the track list there is “You”, an unfortunately lacklustre cut. While it doesn’t disrupt the vibe of the album or distract from the importance of the other songs, it doesn’t really stand out as the most memorable song either. There are only a few moments throughout the record that focus more on being pretty than on the strength of the composition, but they are there.
On the other hand, the best song here by far comes in towards the very end and frankly would make an excellent ending for the album. “Turn” achieves the timeless quality some of the other songs only hint at, and brings hushed, harmonised verses that suck the listener in as the song shifts and turns on itself, before revealing an inescapably beautiful chorus that comes in as the defining point of the album. Moments like this help to evoke the listless Anna Cordell that she tries to present herself as.
Nobody Knows Us is not an incredibly diverse or singular album; it’s fairly straightforward in its style and presentation and tends to pull its punches more often than not. But it does reach the goals it sets out for, providing a quietly beautiful album that acts as more than just a vanity project for Cordell. She is presented as an artist who has a reason to stick around; someone who has put her career on hold and now has enough talent to seamlessly re-enter the fray. Although Cordell has devoted herself to a myriad of projects over the last few years, it’s clear that Nobody Knows Us will not have to fade away before being rediscovered as a hidden gem.
Nobody Knows Us is released Friday 14th February via Ditto Distribution.