Ana Caravelle - "Lucky Cloud (Arthur Russell Cover)" (Unreleased)
It seems like you can’t or shouldn’t be able to talk about Ana Caravelle’s debut album Basic Climb without mentioning the elephant in the room – Joanna Newsom. They both have chosen the harp as their main instrument, they both have weird (polite: idiosyncratic) voices , both are part of the folk tradition as well as that of modern composition. It’s silly perhaps to compare them, as the traditions they come out of are divergent: Caravelle seems much more invested in the British strain, whereas Newsom takes her point of departure from Appalachian folk (despite Newsom’s chimerical focus); Caravelle seems much more interested in modern composition, whereas it seems like that came as an outside imposition onto Newsom.
So, there’s a forked path here because a.) really, any group of musicians with some similar features (background, choice of instrument) can be lumped together, but at the same time b.) the choice of a harp is unique enough that those that choose that as a primary instrument are lumped together simply by dint of scarcity. Sure, I might not have had a lot in common with some of the other Jews in my suburban Pennsylvania high school, but, well, there’s three of us. Who else can I talk to about how boring schul is?
However, if you look at the reviews online, not everyone felt the need to namecheck Newsom in their pieces. It’s not needed, certainly. Caravelle is an artist of her own making. Perhaps influenced by Newsom (she was, after all, 16 when The Milk-Eyed Mender was released), but not reducible to her. Though, who knows if Caravelle would even exist as an indie artist if Newsom hadn’t made it a thing already. This brings up the idea of a singularity, someone in a musical or artistic context who has such a powerful presence that they draw other artists into their sphere by their mere existence. People obviously used the harp before Newsom in an indie rock context, but through the right intersection of circumstances, Newsom kind of planted the flag. At the same time, Caravelle is interesting because at this point, Newsom has kind of disappeared into herself, and like I mentioned in my Screaming Females review, there is room now for more harp-based pop-folk, more room for someone to take up the mantle of early-Newsom, now that she is involved in the labyrinthine.