It is a truth universally acknowledged (by me) that Anna Tivel’s previous album, Heroes Waking Up, is one of the best albums I have listened to in the past five years. That album tells larger-than-life stories of regular people, some of whom truly turn to superheroes and some of whom simply lead their lives as examples to others. I was thrilled when I heard Small Believer was coming out (I literally squeed in the middle of my office, which I share with another person,) but also nervous. This is how I feel when I get a new class of students — I loved the last one so much and what if these kids aren’t as good? And then that’s almost never true (almost).
Suffice it to say, once, like my students, I spend another four months with this album it’ll easily become one of my favorites. In Small Believer, Tivel turns her microscope to smaller stories of people just trying to get by. Tivel’s lyrics are simply devastating — these are the kinds of songs that will break you down and then build you back up. Heroes Waking Up got me through the most difficult time of my life thus far and Small Believer absolutely has that power, too. Tivel has a perceptive but ultimately empowering view of humanity: even as we hurt each other in the worst ways, we also have the ability to change, to survive, and thrive. And if that isn’t heroic, I don’t know what is.