Track by Track Guide:
I saw first light
intro by tom johnson
words by anna mcclellan
photograph by jccwa faya
Anna McClellan sees the opening track on her new album as a bridge between her latest record and her previous effort, 2018s brilliant Yes And No LP. It begins in similar fashion to much of that aforementioned record, a playful piano line upon which McClellan pours many a trial and tribulation. However, by the end of the songs arresting five minutes, the song gives some space “where joy and appreciation of the present can peek through the cracks“.
I saw first light, then, can be seen as a snapshot of Anna’s current world. It drifts between New York and Omaha, Anna’s hometown where the album was recorded in just a short two-week stint. It finds character and characters in those places as well as some choice in-betweens, the songs touching upon varying moods and moments that resonated with her: from the struggle to connect with the creative world, to the imposing struggles of the real world outside of such personal retreats.
Much like its connected predecessor, it’s full of wit, warmth, and warts-n-all storytelling that has an almost magical ability to draw its listeners into its grip, in spite (or perhaps because) of the radical idiosyncrasies that give Anna’s music such a piercing edge. The full album is out as of this week, via the excellent Father/Daughter Records, and in a new piece of writing, Anna guides us through each of the songs on I saw first light. Hit play below and then join her on the tour.
Con S. Sewer
As the first song on the record, “Con S Sewer” acts as the bridge from Yes and No to I saw first light. The beginning begs similar questions of contradiction and indecision. By the end though, the song has opened up and tentatively shed some of those worries to allow space where joy and appreciation of the present can peek through the cracks.
I have long romanticized the idea of jumping off a cliff, and categorized it as the perfect metaphor for letting go. If I could only take that leap of faith, I’d awaken. I’d been wanting to capture the idea in song for a while and thought it would be a longer and more epic endeavor. And I’m sure there is still much more to say about it. In Raisin though, upon jumping, the subject appears to float and become weightless. Never actually landing at all.
I don’t know, how much is there to say? This one is pretty self-explanatory. There is something about naming emotions associated with shame that take away their power. Like in the act of writing and sharing “Desperate” I have become less so.
This was one of the last songs I wrote for this album. I finished it last summer in my empty house right after I moved in. There is a thread of self-liberation running through the album and no song articulates it better than “Feel You”. It is striking to me how internal freedom and light-heartedness create space for authentic connection with others. The ability to be present is, in my opinion, the most valuable skill there is.
This song wasn’t on my list. It was Ryan who suggested we do it. I think it serves an important purpose in the context of these songs. I wrote it in my van when I was in-between places and crashing with friends and didn’t feel comfortable anywhere. I don’t know if other people get so caught up in their life purpose to the point where it is disabling, but that was happening a lot for me throughout writing this whole record. I don’t feel it so heavy anymore which is a testament to the process.
Pace of the Universe
The planet moves and we are of it only shortly. Being human means seeing existence through a specific perspective or lens. The lens informs action. This song asks to widen the lens, look up and out at the larger forces, the pace at which space and time breathe.
“Gone” was subconsciously inspired by Lucinda William’s “I Lost It”. I finished the words in the back of my van (a pattern) because I knew my roommates could hear me on the other side of the closed door and it wouldn’t come out like that. So I grabbed my Casiotone and drove to this trailhead. It was dark and raining and spooky. Depression personified.
Trying too hard
Definitely a lot of fear around this one. I’m new at writing riff-based songs and get nervous when things repeat too much that it will be boring. It’s interesting how songwriting mirrors the way one moves through the world and demarcates one’s change and growth. That’s pretty much the point, I suppose. This song kind of surprised me. And has led to many more surprises.
Oh god, this song. This is the oldest song. I debated the lyric “Why is life so hard?” because as a middle class white person my life is inherently privileged. I would never want to come off as ignorant or insensitive to people who are struggling to have their basic needs met. I ultimately decided to keep it because I think I am capable of holding all of it in my intention and the way I live reflects that. Everyone should have their basic needs met.
Wow, “No Wind”. Just like “Con S Sewer” is the bridge to Yes and No. “No Wind” lies at the end of this record waiting to attach itself to some future iterations of words and music that come from my aura. This song is about guilt. This song has anger in it. I’ve been wondering and noticing lately if every time I feel anger at someone, I’m also feeling anger at myself. This song is about naming that which upsets you without needing to do anything about it.
“I saw first light” is out now, via Father/Daughter Records
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