Every week at PopCrush, we’re putting the spotlight on one up-and-coming act you need to know about. Why? So you can get on board early before everyone else and their mother jumps on the bandwagon…and so you can be that one friend in the group who’s always like, “Um, actually, I prefer their earlier work.”

You've probably heard Brooke Annibale's music before, especially if you're a sucker for teen dramas with a supernatural bent. Her songs have been featured in mammoth shows like Pretty Little Liars and Vampire Diaries, but don't let those titles fool you. Annibale is a sophisticated songwriter, and her discography proves it.

The Pittsburgh native started writing songs at the age of eight, releasing her first album Memories in Melody when she was 17-years-old. In the six years after, she went on to write and record two more full-length albums and two EPs, all leading up to her most recent release, 2015’s The Simple Fear.

While even her earlier work exhibits an obvious knack for songwriting, Annibale's growth as an artist is most clearly stated on The Simple Fear. It’s a cohesive collection of dark, slow-burning folk tracks: Heavy on the guitar and barely-there percussion, all the while exhibiting a masterful understanding of the art of subtlety. Her vocals, which recall the tone of Sara Bareilles minus the bright pop jangle, are warm and inviting, while still managing to keep the listener just at arm's lengths. That kind of duality is hard to pull off without coming off as stiff or forced, but Annibale does it expertly.

Annibale expanded on the process behind recording The Simple Fear, saying via email, "I’m proud of and excited about the record because it’s a diverse group of songs that encompasses a lot of the different directions my songwriting style can go in. I was really involved in the production process and I had a pretty clear vision of how I wanted the songs to turn out. My detail-oriented nature really challenged me to pay attention to every subtlety. I wrote out extensive pre-production and mix notes. My producer Justin March really understood that vision I had, and was able to enhance it and clearly communicate that to the other musicians on the record. Because of both of our attentiveness to detail, our vision for the songs on this record feel basically fully realized."

And where some artists rely on a consistently building crescendo to pack a punch, none of the tracks on The Simple Fear needs it. Annable's vocals never reach beyond maximum volume — and for good reason. Only in “Patience” do we hear a big musical moment, planted beneath layers of growing strings and percussion. But Annibale’s voice is the real focal point of the track — of the entire album, really — somehow remaining soft even when you might expect them to intensify. It’s an exercise in holding back, and the payoff is immense.

It's less about what Annibale sings, and more about her delivery — though it would be a disservice to dismiss her lyrics. Still, on a song like “Answers,” Annibale’s vocals remain subtle, only hinting at desperation when she repeats the chorus: “You’re still looking for answers / Inside of my mouth / But the words you keep looking for / Aren’t gonna come out.”

Rather than borrow too heavily from other artists, Annibale does it with a light touch, skillfully weaving different aspects of her influences throughout the album so her own sound rises above the rest.

Annibale said via email: "I had a lot of different influences and reference points for this record. We would talk about the intricate piano parts of Marketa Irglova (The Swell Season), the way the drums were recorded on First Aid Kit’s latest record, the subtle yet soaring & foundation building electric guitar of the Kathleen Edwards’ Voyageur record, the way strings were recorded on records like Ray LaMontagne’s records, etc."

Listen to Brooke Annibale's full discography over on Apple Music.

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