Anne Garner's fourth album Be Life is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful collections of music to have crossed my path in recent days, and it's not just the purity of her singing voice that's so beguiling but the songwriting, too. Following on the heels of 2011's Trusting a Twirled World, the London-based songstress returns with a concise thirty-five-minute collection that might be her most enchanting release to date. Jointly issued by Slowcraft and Unperceived Records, the limited-edition CD package comes with original artwork by Garner and a hand- stitched twelve-page booklet containing lyrics and photos.
Hers is a fragile music informed equally by folk and classical genres, one sparsely arranged for flute, piano, strings, and subtle electronic sweetening. As understatedly luscious as the arrangements of these dreamy lullabies are, it's her vocal delivery that is her most powerful weapon. The album's ethereal, lullaby-like tone is apparent from the moment Garner's hushed voice emerges within the hymnal meditation “Your Name”—a soul-stirring opener of uncommon beauty. It's hardly the only such moment on the release, however, as other songs rise to its level, too. In fact, as lovely as “Your Name” is, “Wherever You Go” is so beautiful it verges on sublime. Draped across a shimmering backdrop of near-stillness, her near-whispered vocal unfurls slowly, and one comes away from the song transported by its celestial character.
Garner's unerring vocal gifts are on their fullest display during the hypnotic reverie “Leave Your Bed,” and in those moments when she invites a visitor into her realm during “Come In” it's almost impossible not to be reminded of the mythological Sirens whose entrancing singing lured sailors to their shipwrecked doom. While there are obvious differences between the songs, Garner is careful not to upset the album's balance by adding an aggressive uptempo number to its otherwise tender pop framework. The loudest Be Life gets is the slow-building “Wednesday's Child,” which buoys Garner's delicate vocal with a full arrangement of synthesizers and drums. The haunting title track closes the set with flute and vocal flourishes, and even in the rare instance where her voice is deployed as a textural element within the arrangement, Be Life still entrances. It's heartening to discover that music of such uncommon beauty is still being created in a world so fraught with hopelessness and despair.