Just like a person enters and changes with each stage in life, musicians endure similar challenges and phases of growth with each album. Alison Sudol, better known as Ali, of A Fine Frenzy releases her third album, Pines, and in 13 songs finds herself. Sitting with Ali, it is apparent that a major change has occurred. Gone is the eye-snatching red hair (replaced with her natural color, an ash blonde) and musically, gone is her more pop-minded, piano laced sound and songs of longing and heartbreak.
In Pines, Ali reveals herself to herself. She remarks, “I feel very different now. I made this record, basically not only deciding for myself but also having that decision mirrored by the people around me, because I was very fortunate to be very supported through this. But the pressure I put on myself was to make the most honest, most beautiful… album, I could possibly make. To challenge myself to grow, and to make a real piece of art I could be proud of. That’s all the pressure I put on myself. And that’s a lot of pressure – but it’s a very productive pressure.”
And with that pressure, came the process of drawing out her feelings and exploring new sounds to reflect the emotions and experiences that brought her thus far. Riversong and the nearly eight minute long opening track, Pinesong, tell of uncertainty and finding one’s place in the world – and is composed with a delicacy and lo-fi rhythm that truly translate a depth Ali has not previously shown with her last two albums. Regardless of the sea of emotion that is Pines, is the whimsical heart of A Fine Frenzy that has made her so popular to begin with, and in Sailingsong, she finds mid-tempo redemption in the midst of her awakening. Along with her intensity, what is quite apparent is her love for the environment and nature. From her usage of sounds from nature to the nature-affiliated album and song titles, Ali’s connection with the earth and its wonders shines true. “I’d like to remind people…and get people to be a little bit more engaged, and maybe get out into the world, and away from screens, and away from phones…and they might find they have more of an attachment to its welfare.” Her passion for the earth and music mirror her hope that her fans will enjoy this album, as they have enjoyed the past two. She says,“I keep reminding myself, that making it for me – is the success. …the rest of it, I have no idea how it will be received.”As for the near future, Ali will join Joshua Radin on a headlining tour of the US and parts of Canada. A Fine Frenzy enjoys a strong following across the board, and Ali prides herself on being connected with fans – especially via her twitter and Tumblr. Fans of A Fine Frenzy will undoubtedly recognize Ali’s spirit in Pines and perhaps, find their own way through an album of self-recognition and beauty.
Words | Moeima Dukuly
Originally published OCT 16 2012