Ann Vriend | When We Were Spies

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Pop: Baroque Pop Pop: Quirky Moods: Solo Female Artist
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When We Were Spies

by Ann Vriend

An epic cinematic pop album of heart-wrenching and triumphant love songs, both personal and political.
Genre: Pop: Baroque Pop
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. (If We Are Not) Spies
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3:34 $0.99
2. Central Park Monday
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3:07 $0.99
3. Rockin' in the Free World
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3:40 $0.99
4. Start Over
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4:12 $0.99
5. Radio
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3:29 $0.99
6. St. Paul
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3:51 $0.99
7. Now the Lights
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3:48 $0.99
8. Where You Are
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3:53 $0.99
9. The Agreement
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3:51 $0.99
10. Hallowe'en
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4:33 $0.99
11. Take My Hand
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5:21 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Dossier
Ann Vriend: Former Secret Agent

"Ann Vriend" is a former spy. She had been working incognito for an undisclosed European agency, posing as a freelance journalist, when she met someone who was also spy—but for the other side. Against all odds, they fell in love—and thus entered an increasingly complicated game of torn loyalties, dangerous, clandestine passion, and treacherous lies.

It is these experiences which inspired "When We Were Spies"; the cinematic new pop album by former agent Ann Vriend.

Upon making the heart wrenching and dangerous decision to defect, Ann Vriend focussed her experiences and emotions on her other her life-long passion: songwriting (perhaps an equally risky profession!). "When We Were Spies" is a stunning collection of moving pop songs; a glorious opposite to Vriend’s faceless and lonely existence as a spy. It is a richly layered, edgy yet tender declaration of bravery and love in a time of confusion and fear. And it is a thematic, cinematic pop masterpiece, produced by Juno nominated producer Douglas Romanow.

Before the album was pressed it had pre-sold 800 copies, and garnered 4 star national Canadian reviews in NOW Magazine and others. A recent review in A n E Magazine gushes:

"Ann Vriend drives me nuts; how can music be this good and she's not plastered on billboards from L.A. to N.Y.?? “Spies” is a complex album full of subtleties wrapped in memorable tunes…. Vriend is an exceptionally talented artist with a strong comprehension of what her voice can do, an ear for orchestration and she plays the piano skillfully. Her voice is serene with a great amount of precision to it, and yet wild at the same time, like unchartered, untamed vocal territory…. In truth Vriend is such an original, her vocals are hard to categorize. Whatever Vriend does after Spies, I would have to say buy it, in fact buy When We Were Spies and also buy Modes Of Transport."

Hovering perfectly between the accessibility of mainstream "pop" and a fresh writing and singing style all her own, ex-spy Vriend has crossed genres such as pop, rock, roots, electronica, cabaret, soul, and even tinges of alt country-- all with grace, humor, and flare. This has allowed her commercial radio hits while seamlessly fitting into the solo soft seat theatre scene and festival circuit, fully embraced and celebrated by Indie and folk music fans as much as listeners of mainstream radio. Her blend of originality with pop sounds is comparable to innovators such as Kate Bush, Regina Spector, Sarah Slean, Royal Wood, and Feist. Her literary style has likened her to Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon, and her honest voice shows hints of Dolly Parton’s clear, high twangy heartbreak, and Aretha Franklin's stunning, exquisite soul.

With years of international performances under her belt Vriend has wowed audiences around the world with her well-known command as a solo performer, while with her accomplished band a fuller sound is unleashed with fervent passion. Her eclectic fan base is testimony to the fact on record and on stage, Vriend talent lies in her ability to encompass the feelings of all who long for freedom, love, and meaning. Writes American music biographer David Ritz, "Once every generation a singer-songwriter emerges with the creative fire to set the music world ablaze. Ann Vriend has the fire."

Expect 2008 to be a year you can’t stop hearing about former agent Ann Vriend.


Reviews


to write a review

Marv Machura

World-Class Spy, Singer, and Songwriter
Ann Vriend’s disc, When We Were Spies, is an exciting collection 10 new songs and one cover of a Neil Young classic “Rocking in the Free World.”

The production by Doug Romanow is lush, yet subtle, and it puts Vriend’s literate songwriting and expressive vocal style in epic-like dioramas. For each cut on the disc, Romanov and Vriend seem to have created a mini movie score. In our current world of mostly bare-bone production values (stuff like Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Burning Sands disc of last year for example) , this disc comes as a treat to the listener’s ears. For me, this kind of work harkens back to the seventies when bigger and more interesting production were the norm: the Carpenters, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, etc.

One thing that you will notice, even on your first listen, is the joy that springs from the music. The performances bloom with a vibrant life force. We can tell she’s having fun—and giving us a gift of music that is at once personal, inviting, and universal. And although this should be evident in all music, unfortunately it isn’t. Contrived, fame-seeking music spawned from our hyper-competitive glut of idol contestants can NEVER have this kind of soul.

Ann Vriend describes her music as “Baroque Pop” a term that identifies her with other artists that love balanced phrasing, beauty, and clarity. However, to me this classification is somewhat misleading because this disc is more akin to the Romantic period than the Baroque period—Vriend is more like Chopin than Bach. But, whatever: classifications are an unavoidable evil to original and interesting artists like Vriend. Besides, there currently is no recognizable term such as “Romantic Pop” (not even on Wikipedia!). And if it did exist, the connotations of the term may be co-opted by that cringe-worthy kind of corn-syrup music coming out of Nashville and other places that are still holding onto their factory approach to writing, recording, and distributing music. It’s likely best if we never make the mistake of comparing Ann Vriend with that kind of bland homogenized sound. So Baroque Pop it is!

One person who comes to my mind when thinking about Vriend’s lyrics is Leonard Cohen. She has the same kind of poetic sensibilities in creating imagery that carries the story, not with vivid, harsh, realistic colors and brush strokes, but rather with interesting, more-nebulous shades of color and abstract forms. Like Cohen, we can still follow the story line and be there, but we are brought into these worlds through a fourth dimension. It is a world filled with grinning jack-o-lanterns, forgotten missions, disguises, radio waves, etc. all held together by a Cohen-like search for authenticity in relationships and life.

When We Were Spies is an appropriate title. Vriend is like a spy ducking in and out of the shadows. We may want to pin her down, but we cannot. She’ll forever be just ahead of our grasp moving romantically beyond the brick and mortar of mundane music. But the best thing about this spy is that we know she’s on our side—one of the good guys. As she convincingly sings on her cover of Neil Young’s classic: “keep on rocking in the free world.”

This remarkable disc will stand the test of time and is one of my favorite recordings to come out of anywhere in the last while. On one of her songs, Vriends asks, “Will you suspend your disbelief?” Music lovers everywhere should say yes and enter into the spaces created by this world-class spy, singer, and songwriter.

- Marv Machura
www.marvmachura.com

ed marlow

when we were spies
I bought this on the strength of one track I heard on the CBC radio. I liked all of the tracks, even the ones not composed by Ann. The arrangements were great and her voice came through clearly, a good album.