Album Review: Dorothea Paas – Anything Can’t Happen

[Telephone Explosion; 2021]

Dorothea Paas’s Anything Can’t Happen opens up with a soothing guitar and a melodic vocal backing from the songwriter, singing “I’m not lonely now / Doing all the things I want to and working on my mind.” This opening track, “One”, is only 30 seconds long but it’s the best possible way Paas could have opened this, her long-awaited debut album.

It has been five years since the release of her mini-album, No Loose Ends, another meditative and soothing collection that focused on themes of self-reflection and learning to understand who you are as a person better. While that album did a remarkable job at exploring these indefinable areas, Anything Can’t Happen executes these themes even better.

The album is almost soothing to a fault, as a ton of the songs sound quite similar. At times, it almost feels like you’re listening to one gigantic song with subtle instrumental changes every once in a while, to differentiate between moods or movements. But, while it would have been nice to have a bit more range on Anything Can’t Happen, it still manages to impress with its lyrical content, themes, and heady sound.

The title track is a perfect way to continue after “One”. If that starting track was to get you in the mood, then “Anything Can’t Happen” is the perfect way to thrust you into the album and its themes. “Will you ever trust me again? / Will you ever believe another word I say?”, Paas wonders on the impressively bold and orchestral track, where she’s accompanied by wonderful acoustic guitar and drums, making it an immediate standout.

Without a doubt the boldest track this album has to offer is “Closer to Mine”, which wonderfully incorporates the best elements of folk, indie, and even a bit of jazz into one magnificent package. Not only is the lyrical content great on this one (“I try to respect my body in the shape that it takes / I try to respect my mind in the patterns it makes”), but it’s near-five-minutes that go by in the snap of a finger thanks to the dreamy arrangements. “Closer To Mine” is the most potent example of Paas’ ability to put the listener in a trance that is not shaken until the very end of the song.

It’s after the mid-album “Interlude” where the nagging feeling that the songs sound too similar to one another crops up. The following “Waves Rising” seems to incorporate the same instrumentals as “Closer to Mine” and the title track. Of course there are some slight differences, but at the end of the day these differences are not stark enough to stand out on their own. It is the lyrics that separate them, with more exquisitely intimate thoughts on display: “Tension in the muscles behind my heart / So hard to be soft with you / So hard to be gentle.”

Anything Can’t Happen comes to a terrific finish with “Running Under My Life”, which serves as a sort of continuation to “One”. Paas affirms that she is still not lonely and also explains that “I don’t have to share my ideas with you ever again,” quickly underlining it by affirming “some things are just for me.” It’s a song of self-reflection and understanding of oneself, and the closing line is both chilling and fascinating as Paas quietly sings “What would happen if I kept that image in my mind? / For more than a moment? / It would burn through everything”.

Although it’s not without some flaws, mainly lying within its familiarity, Anything Can’t Happen is a terrific album from Dorothea Paas, whose career will hopefully only go up from here. With this album, she has made good on the promise she has been building for the last decade, and proves that there’s still more to come.