Annie Hart: “Please expect catchy hooks, DIY ethics, and a marginally post-punk vibe.” (8/17 at The Dolphin)

The Weight Of A Wave, the fourth solo LP from musician and composer Annie Hart (1/3rd of synth-pop group Au Revoir Simone) drops today courtesy of Uninhabitable Mansions.  However,...

The Weight Of A Wave, the fourth solo LP from musician and composer Annie Hart (1/3rd of synth-pop group Au Revoir Simone) drops today courtesy of Uninhabitable Mansions.  However, the album’s origins date back to even before Hart wrote and recorded her previous full-length, Everything Pale Blue, an ambient album which was conceived of at an artist’s residency in the middle of lockdown when the songwriter found herself especially inspired by reading a 33 1/3 book on Eno’s Another Green World, which Hart discussed with me in November of 2021, prior to playing The Lounge at World Café Live.

However, The Weight Of A Wave is a pretty far cry from Annie Hart’s experiment with ambient music (not that she’s dismissing her previous full-length).  Her latest is arguably the poppiest, rockiest, and danciest music of her career.  Instantly anthemic singles “Stop Staring At You” and “What Makes Me Me” have been proving to be postmodern summertime jams, and her latest single, “Boy You Got Me Good,” which drops today, is a post-punk dance tune that would be right at home at a goth night, between exceptionally playful numbers from Depeche Mode and Siouxsie and the Banshees.  The album also features backing vocals by Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, The Antlers, Drew Citron (Beverly), and Madeline Kenney, with mixing in parts by Jorge Elbrecht (Japanese Breakfast, Hatchie), Joshua Druckman at Outlier Inn (Nude Party, Snail Mail), and Justin Pizzoferrato (Wild Pink, Dinosaur Jr.)

Tonight, Annie Hart will be doing a hometown record release in-store at Rough Trade NYC, playing a stripped-down set and signing store-bought copies of The Weight Of A Wave.  There will also be a limited edition of 45 copies of the album, each available with a unique block print of the album title on watercolor paper, which are available via the record store’s online shop and in-person.  However, for those not in the NYC area, Hart will spend the month on the road, playing with the likes of Fred Armisen, The Natvral, and Jimmy Whispers, which includes a Thursday, August 17th stop at The Dolphin, which will feature The Natvral, AKA Kip Berman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who also opened for Hart at World Café Live in November of 2021, and with whom we spoke in September of that year.  I recently got a chance to chat with Annie about all of this and more!

Izzy Cihak: The last time we spoke was in November of 2021, shortly after live music returned and you were touring behind Everything Pale Blue, your ambient album.  I’ve heard the first two singles off of your upcoming LP, The Weight Of A Wave, which is obviously quite different.  What can fans expect of your fourth solo full-length?

Annie Hart: This album is so different than that ambient one.  It’s very krautrock-inspired, but also has an open-eyed Belle and Sebastian vibe, with Yo La Tengo textures in there for sure.  I really wanted to make a record that would be so fun to tour, that people who come to the show could just dance and sing along and have a blast.  That’s this!

Izzy: I know that when you attended the artist’s residency which ultimately produced Everything Pale Blue, you had originally intended to make a pop record, and you recently said that “What Makes Me Me” was from that period, so I’m curious if any other portions of this album date back to then?  Or, did most of them come about more recently?

Annie: Wow, good observation!  Yes, I went to that residency thinking I was going to finish tracking vocals and getting files ready to send to Jorge Elbrecht, who mixed most of it.  However, once I got there, I started on this deep dive of Eno resulting from reading Geeta Dayal’s 33 1/3 on Another Green World.  That led me to experiment with loops and sequencing, and I loved the result, so I sent a few songs to my friend Owen Ashworth, AKA Advance Base, who runs Orindal Records, and, much to my surprise, he asked me for four songs so he could put it out as an album.  And then I was even more surprised when we sold so many tapes of the thing that he decided to print up vinyl.  And then, of course, once you do that, you have to go on tour, and then, of course, you know about all the vinyl manufacturing delays, so here we are in 2023!  How the heck did that happen?

Izzy: You’ve said that Everything Pale Blue was largely inspired by the winter of 2020 and Brian Eno’s Another Green World, so I’m curious what kinds of things felt like they most inspired the songs on The Weight Of A Wave?

Annie: Most of these songs were written super spontaneously as part of songwriting exercises that had me coming up with 3-7 at a stretch.  A lot were garbage.  A few were good but needed a bunch of finessing, and a couple are just on the record exactly as I recorded them that day.  I didn’t have a very specific musical genre in mind with this, but I was reading Peter Hook’s autobiography at the time, and of course going down New Order rabbit holes as a result.  I love the way they have a high, very hooky and melodic bass line, with deeper synth bass below, and melodies floating around it.  A few of the songs on the record, like “Nothing Makes Me Happy Anymore” were inspired by that line of thinking.  I also thought about how The Cure uses drum beats quasi-melodically, as well.  But mostly, it’s subconscious regurgitation of my favorite songs, I’m sure.

Izzy: Have you heard any favorite reactions to “What Makes Me Me” and “Stop Staring At You” from fans or friends thus far?

Annie: One of my friends texted me out of the blue and said, “Your video for ‘What Makes Me Me’ is the most Annie Hart thing I’ve ever seen, and I mean that as a compliment.”

Izzy: So, I’m a huge cinephile, and the last time we talked you had just been working on the score for Ursula, and I know you do a lot of soundtracks, and seem to be a big fan of cinema in general.  Are there any films you’d encourage our readers to check out, whether things you or your friends have worked on, or just favorites of yours that you think need to be more widely seen?

Annie: I spent a good three months obsessed over Tár.  Wow.  I mean, what an amazing dissection of power in our society, the apparatus that upholds it, and what’s in it for everyone.  Oh, and the consequences.  But what is best of all about it is that nothing in the film is black and white.  Everything is gray area.

Izzy: You’re playing live shows pretty much straight through August.  Are there any dates you’re especially excited about, whether relating to the lineup, the venue, or just the city itself?

Annie: Of course I am super excited to play more shows with Fred Armisen!  He is so fun and generous (lending me his bass, thanks, Fred!) and such a supportive superfan.  He even asked me to come to Alaska and play!  I am over the moon.  I’ve never been.  I am so excited to see it.

Izzy: On a related note, I’ve seen you at Johnny Brenda’s (which has been described as a “mini rock n’ roll ballroom”), The Lounge at World Café Live (which is kind of a standard listening room), and now you’re about to play the Dolphin Tavern (the definition of a barroom), and you regularly play a pretty wide variety of venue types.  Do you have a particular favorite type of venue to play, or one that seems to best fit your live shows?

Annie: My favorites are tiny places with good sound.  I love intimate vibes, both to play and to see music live.  For me, playing live is all about cultivating relationships.  And not just for me and the audience, but between them as well.  I love fostering community and giving people an excuse to get out of the house and be a part of something bigger than themselves.  A small, cozy, friendly venue is exactly that.  It’s such a tangible taste of togetherness.

Izzy: What can be expected of the live show this time around, when you play the South Philly tavern, in terms of setlist, musicianship, and just the general vibe of the night?

Annie: I’ll be joined by an amazing bassist and keyboard player, AKA my husband, who will help me make this set really fun and vibrant.  We’re doing an all killer-no filler set.  Please expect catchy hooks, DIY ethics, and a marginally post-punk vibe.  But electro.  And indie.  I dunno!  It’s just easy on the ears and fun.

Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you, after these August dates wrap?  Anything you’re especially excited about?

Annie: I am scoring two more films I am really excited about.  One is a short narrative, a moving account of becoming a veterinarian, called Put To Sleep, and another is a fun doc about the Artemis launch called Space Coast. That one lets me really geek out in the vintage synthesizer department, which is the best department of all.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.