The illustration on the cover of this album shows people all crammed into two tower blocks, connected but separate. Dutch based songwriter Nana Adjoa’s new album Big Dreaming Ants is similarly packed with a range of diverse influences including soul, jazz, folk, electronia and indie rock. She references Nina Simone, Wilco, JJ Cale and Jeff Buckley in a recent interview and that’s just the kind of intriguing melting pot which she brings to this impressive debut album.
We begin with a raised fist, and a slow burn protest on National Song. The horror of the way the world is unfolding right now inspires the lyrics. Musically it’s melodic and bristling with quiet intent.
On Cardboard Castle she presents herself as a songwriter who is willing to look at the world with an unblinking eye. She sees through the lies and bullshit all around her. Musically it hums with a similar forceful strength.
On Throw Stones she tries to keep calm in the face of the toxicity of the world. This attempt to keep a lid on her simmering violence means the music understated, which works but hey maybe it’s okay to just lose it and let your anger out – musically anyway. Count back from ten until you land, is advice we all might need in the next few months.
Dreaming (No Room) is more mellow, with an rnb flavour and groove – these musical textures offer something quite distinctive and interesting to the listener. There’s a really insightful and inspiring heart to the lyrics of this album too. In Lesser Light Pollution she explores loneliness and longing. Every Song is a really powerful moment where she sings about what it means to be original, concluding that music and emotions are all interconnected through history, across humanity. Life is the same for everyone and must be lived over anew every time. Songs will be sung again. To truly be ourselves we need to see the connections with what has come before us.
Songs like Brothers and Sisters and She’s Stronger use more layered electronic sounds, which really create a strong atmospheric quality. She finishes the album with a question on Who do We Look To Now and the answer on I Want To Change. She finds hope for the future by looking within and without.
Nana Adoja sings of how we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, concluding that we must work together to raise ourselves up. Big Dreaming Ants is a thoughtful and inspiring collection of songs from an intriguing new talent.