It’s difficult to grapple with subjects as big as humanity or modern society through song. It invites your audience to be hyper-critical, analyse why you are worthy of playing the preacher. Nana Adjoa has nailed the art of undressing self-importance on her debut, Big Dreaming Ants. It’s why she gets away with bold songs about national identity and protesting authority. That, and the songs are very good.
The album is elegant and hook-laden, but still full of colour and detail. ‘National Song’ is a swooning, slow-motion lullaby of an opener, backed by fuzzed-out strings, guitars and lolloping drums. “You know how to barricade your classroom doors,” she sings. “You know the words to your national song / but you don’t feel it at all.” Her whispered delivery is completely disarming, but the words don’t lose their bite.
There’s an intimacy to her performances, even when they are grand in size, that contrasts well with the universal scope of the album. ‘Every Song’, and ‘Love and Death’ are about our unimportance in the face of unending time, told with a warmth and sincerity that places us at her level. This is not an album that talks down to the listener. There are flashes of The National, Solange and Elliott Smith throughout Big Dreaming Ants; a record full of wide-ranging ideas, by an emerging artist with the talent to make talking about the big stuff seem easy.
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