It's not pejorative to call Anni Rossi the next great freaky art chick. Like PJ Harvey, Ms. Rossi sat down to record her sophomore effort (re-imagining most of her EP Afton) with producer Steve Albini, and in doing so discovers untapped dimensions only hinted at by her early work.
However, Rockwell doesn't have the raw, bluesy angst of Harvey's Rid of Me. Where that album merely toyed with string sections, Rossi's viola wholly drives Rockwell. The album aesthetically falls much closer to Björk, at least in terms of her pixie-ish rasp, replete with crackling falsettos and strange a cappella sound effects.
But, really, Rockwell is an album that stands strongly on the merits of its own ingenuity. The album's overall tone is satirical, filled with sly paeans to nature that also critique massification: "Ecology" is a postmodern pastoral in which "Pretty bears have lost their checkbooks"; "Glaciers" links "hills and ice and snow and land and dirt" with "freezer boxes"; "Machine" warns of "landscapes ... freez(ing) us over" while our body parts are commodified by "impulses from the machine."
"Venice" and "Living in Danger" are the songs that will probably stick with you most after the album is over. "Deer Hunting Camp 17" may be the most frustrating, where Rossi's quirkiness feels unedited. But the rest of the album is so delightful in its oddness and sweet in its wordplay that we can easily forgive Rossi her excesses. Go get your hands on Rockwell, stat.