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Anna Renae Anna Renae
Album: Skin
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.annarenaemusic.com

Hard though it is to think back to those halcyon days of youth, between the ages of 13 and 21, how many of us were just trying to get through our school days intact? Most of the time was spent discovering music our parents did not approve of, or learning just how many was one too many. Not many of us were writing the songs that would one day form our debut album (which in my case is fortunate as I can't hold a tune). Anna Renae was doing just that, capturing the experience of teenage life in music, navigating the turbulent maelstroms of those years and making sense of them through songs.

Any worries that this might therefore come across as the kind of immature cod-philosophical musings you associate with teenagers should be dispelled instantly on the first play. Alaska is a stunning opening track beginning with a brave acapella introduction, and a superb introduction to Renae's impressive vocal skills. Far From Sanity further reinforces that, with a gorgeous track about the madness that love can induce.

There's not a weak song on the album, and Renae melds together pop and folk sensibilities with a great deal of craft. From the latter, Loving You Silently is a superb folk song right at the end of the album, with the stunning violin of Maria Grigoryeva. The likes of The Rain At Night and Drawing Lovehearts are a little more pop at heart, and there's something really uplifting about much of the tracks which are guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

Highlight of the album is probably the title track. Skin is an absolute joy of a track, despite the emotional turbulence that sits at its heart. Where Renae truly shines is in her ability to turn what are really very personal moments and lessons in her life, and turn them into something that will speak to everyone. The Soldier is another stunning song that you'd expect to hear from someone far further along their musical career. It's another highlight on an album full of highlights.

Skin is an absolute delight of an album from start to finish, and is one of the most impressive debuts I've heard in some time. In fact, for my money it's up there with the best albums of the year so far. We may only be a few months into 2020, but this will take some beating. Anna Renae is clearly an artist to keep an eye (and ear) on, and with a debut this good, I can't wait to hear what she does next.

Adam Jenkins