Shattering insight in AV.’s debut releases

Glass houses and shattered walls figure intensely in “Antidote,” “Please,” and “Our Ghosts,” the first three singles from the upcoming debut EP of teenage Boston singer-songwriter Anna Vrahliotis, who performs as AV. Thanks to the recent release of “Antidote,” I’m catching up on these songs, which together form the fragmented piece of a story of losing and finding. (The full EP will fill in the gaps.)

If you enjoy the sound of Rachel Platten, especially her early releases, AV’s music is likely to entice you. The sound is a more Americana, including the Americana tradition of digging deeper into pain and loss, yet with bubbly hopeful pop undertones that point to growth and resilience. The EP was recorded in Nashville, in a 16-hour marathon recording session with singer-songwriter Georgia English and incorporates English’s seemingly effortless blending of diverse musical roots. “It was my first time being in a real studio,” Vrahliotis reminisces.

Let’s take a listen to these three tracks, piecing together the story in reverse order. 

Antidote
This self-love song pulls no punches about the toxicity of the relationship that the singer is moving on from. If “thank you for the hell you put me through” reminds you of “Thank U Next” (in the hands of early Taylor Swift), it’s also emblematic of the difference in tone from the Ariana Grande hit. True to the tradition of Americana (and to dark moments plenty of us had as young women, whether from family or romance), the lyrics go a lot further in probing at the pain and indulging a little schadenfreude. “Now your guilt is crawling, and it’s knocking at my door” is such a satisfying line, not least for its gentle implication that the other person has the character of a snake.

“I built a house from the broken home” is a line worthy of Kelly Clarkson. That’s in the chorus. The second verse has such delightfully vicious wordplay, from being able to drown in an empty swimming pool to the method of no longer being in someone’s shadow (which I’ll leave for you to listen to). All this is over cheerful boop-boop noises, hearkening to either the Colbie Caillat brand of optimism (which, if deliberate, is so trenchant, since it bends the sound of “my life is so sunny with you” to the message of “my life is so sunny with myself as I’ve grown”) or 1990s video games (also somewhat on-point for a relationship where it’s a good bet someone was playing mind games). 

Please
This track, the second single, is tracked earlier in the EP. The opening ethereal, almost monotone, almost shoegaze sound is deceptively like a love song, until the line “our glass house is now a shattered home.” 

As the song reveals itself as a plea for someone to stay, the monotone effect takes on the quality of a litany, a prayer to do better together. When I asked Vrahliotis about the glass house motif, she explained that the glass is for transparency, and the walls are the other side of transparency.

Our Ghosts
“Maybe it’ll be all right if I drive through the night, follow the streetlights” is such a lovely line, rising from tormented hints of burgeoning self-knowledge. The subsequent chorus, which came to Vrahliotis in a 20-second burst of inspiration, lays out the premise that’ll drive the EP: a relationship that is deeply troubled and flawed, yet the point-of-view character is struggling to distangle herself. The lyrics unwind with the beautiful specificity that can make a song feel universal because the songwriter depicted it so vividly. Just when I think I know what all the ghosts are in the relationship, there’s a twist and it’s something more and different. 

Look for the full EP, Guess I’m a Ghost this spring, where you’ll also hear a rollicking upbeat track and a further exploration of feeling transparent, yet invisible. Vrahliotis looks forward to people finding their own truths in her debut EP: “As soon as I put it out there, it’s the world’s.”

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