Much of our lives are completely out of our own control, and we all find different ways to cope with asking why things happen the way they do. Anything from planning ahead to beat destiny, faith in a religion or ignoring these questions altogether offer a sense of security. Anna McClellan’s sophomore LP keeps asking “why” in its raw and anxious look at life’s unpredictability.

Through McClellan’s observational, confessional and, at times, funny songwriting style, Yes and No explores life’s big questions without becoming overwhelming or tiresome.

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There are plenty of tracks that benefit from McClellan’s personality, but none quite as much as “Nail-biting song.”

Clocking in at just over eight minutes long, “Nail-biting song” gives McClellan plenty of room to breathe. The track goes between three distinct verses allowing McClellan to seamlessly cover anything questioning taxes and the economy to her own self-destruction when things get too good.

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The safety of life with a home, partner and kids leaves McClellan feeling without any control over her own life. What makes the tracks’ broad range of ideas seamless is the systems in place to give us security take away any control we have in a life already marked by unpredictability and lack of control.

McClellan’s songwriting is not the only point of uniqueness for this record. Her voice is very raw and emotive. The combination of rawness in her vocals and the hard-hitting piano is reminiscent of Fiona Apple’s 2012 release, The Idler Wheel…, in the sense there is an experimental and jazzy nature to Yes and No.

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“Hearts of Hearts” displays this unique blend strongly as McClellan lets loose on her vocals. On this track, McClellan finds she’s consumed with worries that don’t matter in a system forces her to think this way. McClellan asks if we’re destined to keep worrying and asking “why” or if there is a freedom to be found.

Ultimately, the answer is no.

We have no say in anything that happens. We may feel and act a certain way, but that doesn’t matter. It’s clear from the album’s opener, “Flailing Orbits,” control over our destinies is an illusion.

“My spirit can’t see past your astrology sign,” McClellan sings. “Our flailing orbits crash into my breast.” Just like our planet, we are bodies in motion moving in a pre-determined path.

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The closer, “Shit’s in the Stars,” continues this sentiment as McClellan daydreams of romance become true before she even had a chance to blink her eyes and “make it right” — that’s how life moves sometimes. In an instant, our lives’ Hollywood moments can be played out before we know it.

McClellan’s sophomore album shows growth as a musician and songwriter, as her songs explore life’s smallest moments in the context of its biggest questions. She does this effortlessly through a sound deeply crafted in tune with her personality. In her search to find whether we have control in our own lives, she finds the answer is both Yes and No.

 

SCORE: 4/5