It is tempting to peg Anni Rossi and her work on the Afton EP as "anti-folk." Rossi fits all the critera: She sings funny, her songs tease conventional pop structures, and the image Rossi herself presents is a precious one, indeed.
But that's too basic. It suggests that Rossi woke up one morning and decided that she wanted to play her viola a certain way, sing a certain way, and in general be a certain way to fit a certain mold. Listening to Afton, it seems there is no other way that Rossi could sing, or play her viola, or be precious.
The best part of Rossi's music is the way she lets the cracks show. On every track on Afton, Rossi's voice squeaks and becomes all sorts of breathy, but these apparent weaknesses just distinguish her music further -- including from other artists with unconventional voices. Even her simple combination of viola and foot-tapping on many tracks seems brave, as if she's decided to come at music with just enough things to fit in a suitcase.
Oddly enough, all of this indviduality doesn't really translate to conviction for Rossi's music. It might be that the six songs on the EP don't really seem cohesive. Not that every album has to have some great theme, but when every song has the same odd feeling, it can make the whole work plod along. At some point Rossi's charming idiosyncrasies become repetitive -- her barebones instrumentation, her zany lyrics (such as "To be a beekeeper in the Himalayas/ You'd sting me in the knee/ And make em weak like paper").
Rossi's music doesn't offer some great payoff, but the nice thing is that it suggests that we should keep listening because there will be one down the line. If we give her some time alone with her viola and shoes, Rossi could turn out the kind of work that makes us really fall hard.