For some artists the process of creativity is mostly spontaneous, taking them over like a forest fire and not quitting until it finally stops pouring the larva out. For most however writing and performing are just the by-products of good old-fashioned process, the twin boredom beacons of practice and hard work allowing them to give the appearance of being a gifted natural.
Anna Burch has worn those shoes, playing in fellow Michigan outfits Failed Flowers and more recently folk-rockers Frontier Ruckus, all the time working up the inner jazz to head out on her own, albeit once she’d found the courage doing so with a band composed of less than strangers.
Quit The Curse then is the result of baby steps and calculation rather than somebody yelling into the abyss, a tone set on the sanguine opener 2 Cool 2 Care, an underwhelmed sketch on romance which enjoys the killer non-sequitur “From what I can see reciprocity is boring/but I’m tired of unrequited love stories”. In fact, almost everything here relates to a human’s ability to be less than human to one another, a clipped cynicism reflecting the dynamics of the post love age; “The stabbing hatred for you suddenly got softer” the singer laconically croons to an ex on What I Want, somewhere between fanning the flames and pissing on the embers.
Sixties leaning, nineties sounding, Burch’s songs operate within themselves despite some of the rawness, the aesthetic at it’s most animated on Tea-Soaked Letter, a drawling precedent set by Courtney Barnett, although Quit The Curse Doesn’t quite have the same flair for the trivial as the Australian’s urban raconteurship. The title track especially is redolent in the sort of quiet-not-quite-as-quiet vibe which passes for ironically sliced rock these days, whilst closer With You Every Day feels like it’s one chord change away from breaking the unconscious shackles that otherwise keep everything a little too neatly strung in.
Only when things really get to live in the sludgy mess we all experience at some point on Belle Isle does the destination really feel like it’s worth the trip; Burch archly does her best millennial Patsy Cline, in true country tradition celebrating being both victim and perpetrator in a blue swirl of slide-guitared guilt, longing and paranoia. In the round, it’s creator has produced a debut that in retrospect is charming without sweeping the listener off their feet, that’s clever but doesn’t really offer any insight and most crucially is self-critical without cutting deep enough. Quit The Curse is well-meaning but lacks a little of the wrist of its contemporaries. Anna Burch will have to decide in future whether faint praise is a blessing or just more damnation.