We’re big fans of Anna Elizabeth Laube here at Riot Towers, so we were delighted that she was able to make a contribution to this year’s High Fives. Her album “Tree” deserved every on of the five stars it received. We were even more pleased that she did something that no featured artist has done before; she opted for five favourite videos. Here we go:

Beyoncé – Hold Up

I didn’t really understand Beyoncé-mania until her last record, Beyoncé, when the genius finally hit me. I covered her song “XO” (as did John Mayer, a version I also really like) on my most recent record, Tree. Beyoncé is a masterpiece of an album, as is Lemonade. This video for “Hold Up” sums up the contradictions implicit in this album. Playful, rageful, knowing, confused, lighthearted, heavy. Feelings. It’s gorgeous, sexy, powerful.

Maggie Rogers – Alaska

The music and images in this video are unique, fresh, inspirational. Maggie Rogers was propelled to fame by a Pharrell masterclass, but her talent and merit is all her own.

Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World

I first heard Michael Kiwanuka in a Starbucks on State St. in Madison, WI, one cold winter afternoon. This new video is disorienting, important, timely, thought-provoking.

Lady Gaga – Million Reasons

I don’t love this video as much as the rest of the ones on this list, but I love the song. One of the best new songs this year. I’m sure we’ll have an official video out soon, but for now this live performance will suffice. (Unfortunately, the video Anna chose has been blocked in the UK for copyright reasons, so here’s the official video).

Danny Denial – Sell Me Out

I moved to Seattle this year and am happy to report the music scene is alive and well. This song and video are by local pop-punk artist Danny Denial. Raw, real, precocious.

ael-scrollerJust over a year after the release of her eponymous third album, Anna Laube has become Anna Elizabeth Laube and released her fourth album, “Tree”. She’s moved on from the playful experimentation of the previous album and produced a little classic of restrained melancholy where her pure, fluty vocals are set against sparse arrangements creating a lo-fi intimacy that perfectly matches the mood of the songs. With “Tree”, Anna has restricted her palette to sepia tones rather than the vibrant Technicolour of “Anna Laube”, although even the pared-down arrangements allow for some experimentation within the album’s sombre overall mood, which is enhanced with lashings of reverb on vocals and instruments.

The album opens with a Dylan cover, “Wallflower”, a melancholy old-country waltz telling the story of two lonely people in a crowded room, complete with some lovely fiddle fills. And that’s not the last of the songs in three-four time; the imploring “I Miss You So Much” with its wailing harmonica, the love ballad “Longshoreman” and “Lose, Lose, Lose”, the story of recovery from alcoholism, ruined by the reappearance of an old flame (at Christmas of all times). If you spliced together Patsy Cline and Rickie Lee Jones, it would sound like this.

XO” is a gentle finger-picked acoustic version of the Beyonce song, helped along by a trumpet accompaniment, not the usual strident brass, but a muted version with a Mexican tinge. And finally, two absolutely beautiful songs. The title song is the story of a tree and the way it, and other trees, intertwines with our lives. The gentle acoustic arrangement and lovely multi-tracked harmonies are a contrast to the over-driven, but quiet and tasteful guitar solo; all of the parts fit together perfectly. “Please Let it Rain in California Tonight” expands from concern about drought to become a secular Lord’s Prayer with piano backing. It’s a deeply moving piece that is so catchy you’ll be singing along on the first listen.

“Tree” is a flawless album that works with limited soundscapes to create a mood that’s mainly melancholy with a few lighter touches for contrast. It’s a very beautiful piece of work.

“Tree” is released on Aah…Pockets! Records (Aah …Pockets!4) on Friday October 21st.