Earlier this year, husband and wife tandem Anne Malin, comprised of songwriter-instrumentalists Anne Malin Ringwalt and William Johnson, were all set to make a new record at The Bomb Shelter studio with some of their favorite Nashville musicians. Instead, forced by the pandemic to stay home and record alone, they made Waiting Song, a hauntingly beautiful Americana album that explores our perpetual disconnection with time in the age of coronavirus.
Between its many desolate guitar passages, slow-burning piano progressions and overall ambiance, much of the record deals in dark downtempo instrumentation that evokes a stark country noir feel. “Empty is the Day” ponders the effects of time inside a medley of soft percussion and winding guitars, while the dreamy strings on “Sleep” make for a space country ballad that elicits wonder and solace. Similarly, the unsettling lurch of “What Brings My Eyes Open” and the stoned cowboy waltz “Hourglass” continue the trend of somber, enchanting ditties. In contrast, the multi-part “Child” lays down a healthy helping of gothic desert grooves before shifting into a gorgeous instrumental outro of astral folk.
More than any other track, “Waiting Song” captures the essence of the album’s musical and thematic offerings in a snapshot. Ringwalt’s fragile melodies tremble against a ghostly acoustic backdrop, conveying the desperation of being isolated with no physical connection to the rest of the world in simple language: “I’ll stand by the window and think a waiting song.” The ethereal lullabies on this album stem from a compelling personal viewpoint yet tap into the universal laments of the day. Under the scope of quarantine, it is near impossible to escape feelings of detachment, helplessness and uncertainty. On Waiting Song, Anne Malin embraces this fear of the unknown to gain a better understanding of who we are and how we fit into the present moment.