Anja McCloskey is a singer-songwriter and accordionist from the U.K. who writes dramatic songs that positively burst with atmosphere and texture. Her latest single (and accompanying video) “And Her Head,” which was inspired by a tragic event in her grandfather’s life, is a stirring mix of strings, violin, as well as Anja’s trademark vocals and accordion. It’s a bold choice, certainly, to center a musical career around an instrument that many regard as a novelty, but there is no hint of irony here. For Anja, the accordion is a thing of beauty and love.
Here’s how she describes it: “Ever since my grandpa started playing his accordion to me as a little child I have wanted to play it too. I just love the deep and full sounds and the little quirky noises the accordion makes and I don’t know any other instrument that can be so versatile and expressive.” Despite the thematic components of her songs, Anja is quick to challenge the assertion that this is Folk music: “I didn’t grow up or learn in a folk environment at all,” says Anja. “The accordion is obviously a folk instrument and I have been exposed to a lot of folk-inspired music since living in the UK, but my music owes just as much to classical.”
Prior to “And Her Head/Impeccable,” Anja released an EP of songs called Turn, Turn, Turn, which can be found on Bandcamp (and heard below). Its opening track – “Decision” reminds me of the experience of hearing Joanna Newsom for the first time. Certainly, their musical styles diverge, but there is a passion in both Newsom’s and McCloskey’s performances that underscores the passion felt for their off-beat choice of instruments (harp and accordion, respectively). By the time Turn, Turn, Turn rolls around to its second track – “Instigate It” – the doubts are lost in the folds of surf-tinged melody.
It’s always exciting to catch talents like Anja on the rise, as there are clearly great things ahead for the Southampton-based singer/songwriter. But there’s really no need to take my word for it. Have a listen to Turn, Turn, Turn, and check out “And Her Head” below. If you like what you hear, the single’s out on Sotones Records and available via Anja’s site.
Here’s Turn, Turn, Turn:
And here’s “And Her Head:”