Anna Burch’s ‘If You’re Dreaming’ is a timely soundtrack of wistfulness and quiet self-reflection

Anna Burch

If You’re Dreaming

Polyvinyl Record Co. · April 3, 2020

Anna Burch’s sophomore album, If You’re Dreaming, invokes feelings of nostalgia and reflection. The album’s instrumentation is simple and sparse. Guitar chords and gentle drums provide the basis of the tracks. This foundation is occasionally ornamented by piano and wind instruments, which, when combined with humming and echo effects, add depth and complexity. Burch’s vocals emphasize the offbeats of the drums and create building harmonies with the guitar. 

The album begins with “Can’t Sleep,” which sets the tone of the album. It depicts the quiet reflection that comes with a restless night, and feels airy and wistful. This flowing feeling is anchored by the quiet and steady drumbeat. 

The style of the drums is one of the biggest contrasts between If You’re Dreaming and Burch’s debut album, Quit the Curse. This first album featured a fuller sound and rock-style drums, while the drums in her follow-up album operate more as a subtle tether between the beat and the flowy vocals. Burch’s vocals, which draw the listener in with syncopated phrasing and unexpected notes, are what makes her style so distinct. 

The stand-out track of the album is “Tell Me What’s True.” Each word is individually emphasized, as the piano guides the footing for the melody. The piano truly shines in this track, subtly showcased in the fills between melodic phrases before bringing the song to a beautiful close. 

In addition to the vocal tracks, Burch includes two instrumental interludes: “Keep Warm” and “Picture Show.” “Keep Warm” seems to refer to the theme of “Jacket,” an earlier track that repeats the lyric “you’re always keepin’ it warm.” This interlude showcases strumming guitar arpeggios and understated woodwind flutters, invoking the feeling of dreaming.

Each track has a different vibe, but the atmosphere of the album is cohesive.  This cohesiveness is a great advantage in the album, but is also its biggest drawback. As the album goes on, the flowing feeling of the tracks lulls the listener into a dreaming state, rather than maintaining their attention. However, for those who manage to resist this dazed state, Burch ties the tracks together well, strengthening the album’s overall narrative.

On If You’re Dreaming, Anna Burch shares vulnerability and self-reflection with her listeners and demonstrates a fearless affinity for unconventional chord progressions. Every word, phrase, chord, and emotion of If You’re Dreaming is saturated with intention.  Although the tracks can blend together at times, the album’s intention and narrative show promising direction for Burch’s future works.

Listen to If You’re Dreaming:

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