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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flo Anito - No Dustbunnies

Flo Anito - No Dustbunnies
2008, Flo Anito

Flo Anito, a Washington, D.C.-based singer/songwriter who has garnered comparisons to Ani DiFranco, Fiona Apple and Nellie McKay, has been charming fans in the DC area and throughout New England for a couple of years now.  Her jazzy, piano-driven pop songs show off poetically prolific story-telling style with theatrical flair.  A graduate of Wesleyan University, Anito is classically trained in piano, voice and cello, and has a background in musical theater as well.  All of these facts offer hints of what is to come when first sit down to listen to Flo Anito's latest album, No Dustbunnies.  Anito worked with Chris Keup (O.A.R., Erin McKeown); Stewart Meyers (Lifehouse) and Brian Jones (Dave Matthews Band, Mandy Moore) to bring No Dustbunnies to life.

Anito opens with "Man Of The Year", a simplistic piano-driven arrange with a lace of strings added for atmosphere.  The song explores the angst of a new or prospective relationship; of wanting in but being afraid of getting hurt.  It's an intriguing start, and shows off a voice that's both gritty and pure; a sweet alto with a bit of tough-girl rasp.  "Uh Oh!" is catchy, stripped-down rock n roll that wouldn't be surprising in the background of a prime-time drama.  Anito's theatrical background comes out to stay for a while, starting with "Work!".  The song explores the complete thought process about a failing relationship, in a wordy yet well-flowing presentation that sounds like a modern Broadway/rock soliloquy.    If "Work!" is the internal conversation, the "Change My Life" is the external one that follows.  The melody is memorable, and the chorus in particular could get lodged in your head for days. 

"Mean" continues in the same vein, a catchy rocker with blues in its ancestry that explores the petty offenses and responses that dot a dysfunctional relationship.  This one is delivered in two acts: the first an early wakeup call that she didn't appreciate; the second her scheming for revenge.  Revenge and pathos make for an entertaining and tuneful trip into the dark reaches of the relationship psyche.  Country, blues and gospel blend on "No Good", a musical revelation that the relationship needs to go.  Anito gives you the entire rundown in lyrics that give you everything you could want to know while somehow avoiding the trap of too much information.  The chorus will stick with you, and you'll still feel the Broadway vibe that's run throughout much of the album to this point.

Things on No Dustbunnies have gone so well to this point that the coming slowdown is both expected and disappointing.  "dRuNKen LetTeR" is morose and self-serving, as it should be, but really dampens the entire mood that Anito has set to this point, and sounds very much out of place.  "Afghanagain" and "Valentine's Day Blues" are solid story songs, but lack the pizzazz and energy of what's come before, while "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You" serves as a placid transition to the close.  Anito sails off into the sunset with the jaunty, tongue-in-cheek Leave It To Beaver pop of "No Dustbunnies", funneling the frustrations of an old-time housewife into the cleanest home in town.  Rather than playing the song dipped in irony, Anito gives listeners the story in an authentic, time-stamped voice, which in its way is more ironic than the sarcasm often passed off as irony in pop culture.

The key to great pop music is simplicity.  Flo Anito appears to have learned this lesson well, constructing simple-yet-catchy pop tunes that are literate and fun.  Half of No Dustbunnies mines the culture of relationships for dysfunction and real emotion, presenting it all in a storytelling style that is equally at-home in the theater as it is on a pop record.  Anito manages this all in engaging fashion, wrapping you up in the web of strong narrative and infectious melodies that simply won't leave you alone.  The other half of the album is less winsome; functional in nature but lacking the pizzazz and charm that Anito is capable of.  All in all it's a worthwhile effort, but there are certainly some weeds in the flowerbed.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Flo Anito at or  No Dustbunnies is available on CD from Downloads are available from iTunes.

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