Artist To Watch: Daneshevskaya

Marcus Maddox

Artist To Watch: Daneshevskaya

Marcus Maddox

When Daneshevskaya announced her debut full-length Long Is The Tunnel at the end of August, she shared the sweeping single “Big Bird.” At two and a half minutes, it goes farther than most indie songs can reach. Anna Beckerman’s silky soprano leads fluttering synthesizers and fuzzy guitars: “For the last time/ I am whole,” she croons, the instrumentation capricious yet calculated, building until the euphoric end, marked by the squawking of seagulls. It’s as if she’s pondering her life while looking at the water, which is a motif on the record; on the sprawling opener “Challenger Deep,” she sings, “There’s a place where oceans meet/ And a darkness underneath/ Things I’m not meant to see.” Long Is The Tunnel plunges straight into those depths, finding beauty and peace even in the murk.

Her music sounds bigger than herself, and that’s because it is. “Each song really felt like its own world,” she says over the phone from New York, “with who helped write it, what it’s about, the instruments we decided to use on it. I really like to do that with each song — giving it its own universe to live in.” The collaboration is extensive: Lewis Evans (of Black Country, New Road) on saxophone; Madeline Leshner on piano; Ruben Radlauer (of Model/Actriz) on production, mixing, engineering, drums, percussion, synth, programming, and BGVs; Finnegan Shanahan on violin; Artur Szerejko on production, bass, mixing, guitar, synth, programming, and engineering; and Hayden Ticehurst on production, mixing, engineering, guitar, synth, programming BGVs, bass, and lap steel.

“I really give all of my energy to melody and lyrics,” Beckerman explains. “Once I feel good with that, I don’t feel like a ton of ownership over it anymore. I can give it to the next person and be like, ‘Do whatever you want, have fun.’”

Music was never just Beckerman’s possession. Her father is a music history teacher whose grad students helped her learn piano. Her mother was a singer who studied opera. Her brothers (who showed her bands like Rilo Kiley and Neutral Milk Hotel) were born in St. Louis, but she was born in California. Her family moved around a lot because of the scarcity of musicology jobs for her father, though they settled in New York when she was seven. Along with growing up in this musical household, she recalls hymns in synagogue snapping her out of her boredom as a child. “I really liked the idea of singing without performing,” she says. “You do it as a part of a ritual of life. It’s not something that you do is in front of other people or for other people. It’s a community vibe.”

This egoless approach enriches Long Is The Tunnel, out this Friday via Winspear. Beckerman also works as a social worker, which reminds her of what a bubble the music scene can be: “No one here [at my day job] cares about any of that,” she says humbly. She embarked on her first tour in August, opening for Black Country, New Road and charming crowds with a cover of Elliott Smith’s “Clementine.” She cites the doomed singer-songwriter as an influence for her album’s devastating finale “Ice Pigeon,” specifically his knack for crafting such beautiful, calm ballads whose lyrics contain seething anger. “Holding up your hands to block the light/ You only like me when I’m terrified,” she lulls tranquilly, as if grateful to be relaying this pain retrospectively, successfully free from the past.

“I think everyone tends to be drawn to people who are funny and smart and everything they say you really connect to and you feel like, ‘Oh, this person sees me,'” she says about “Ice Pigeon.” “I’ve just had so many experiences where I wasn’t special and they weren’t connecting to me; they were connecting to the attention I was giving them. I really love when songs are angry but still manage to be loving and can hold both of those things.”

This sentiment is what helped put her on the map with her first EP, 2021’s Bury Your Horses, whose centerpiece “Dr. Johann Averies” ends with the striking kicker: “Please be nice to me/ Okay, now be mean.” “I recorded live on not a great mic and put it out the next day — didn’t get it mastered or anything — and that was by far the most popular song,” she says, a testament to the importance of authenticity in her music. The emotion is palpable and artful. In the making of Long Is The Tunnel, both of her grandparents passed, and she went through her grandmother’s old letters, which became a lens through which Beckerman processed her own personal turmoil.

“My biological grandfather died before I was born and [my grandmother] was still pretty young, so she wrote a lot of poetry about him dying,” she says. “They had been together since she was 16. I was thinking a lot about how you say goodbye to someone who’s basically your family, like you’ve known them for more time than you didn’t know them for. I was thinking of that in the context of whatever heartbreak I was going through at the time. I really liked a lot of the words that she used. One of the lines in ‘Challenger Deep’ — ‘Will you wait for me/ Where there is no later on’ — came from a poem that she wrote where she was like, ‘I’m not sad that you’re gone/ But just that there’s no later on.'”

The wise, anachronistic nature of the lyrics is complemented by the classical texture of the sound, like the soaring piano in “Bougainvillea” (Leshner is classically trained, Beckerman explains, and “really knows how to mirror emotion through what she’s playing”) or the enchanting violin on “ROY G BIV.” Though the album is only seven tracks, each is full and flourishing.

It’s an impressive debut, the work of an imaginative mind that views art as a communal effort rather than an individualistic practice. Untouched by narcissism and welcoming of outside perspectives, her music is iridescent and unforgettable. Daneshevskaya, Beckerman’s middle name, was her great grandmother’s surname. In many ways, Long Is The Tunnel is the culmination of a lineage, the sonic crystallization of a bloodline; the songs have been building for centuries, and they have the gravity and resonance to be cherished for just as long.

Long Is The Tunnel is out 11/10 on Winspear.

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