Who is Charlotte Cornfield? The video for “Cut and Dry,” a single from her new album Could Have Done Anything, answers the question with a lifelong collage of home video footage. She begins in a children’s choir, sporting a halo of blonde curls, dimpled cheeks, and a nose so buttony it belongs on a teddy bear’s sweater. We watch her grow up, get glasses, chop those curls. She leaves the choir behind and begins to noodle on an electric guitar. She shows off records by the BeatlesNeil Young, and Joni Mitchell. By the conclusion, she is eight months pregnant and surrounded on a small stage by a band in all black.

It’s clear that Cornfield knows herself, even as the rest of the world is still coming to know her. Her last album, the spry and witty Highs in the Minuses, garnered enough attention that the Toronto-based artist was able to embark on her first U.S. tour. She recorded Could Have Done Anything with producer Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman, her first time extending the creative process beyond her tight-knit community of friends. Still, even with a broader audience and a new collaborator, her work retains the cozily homemade feel of the earlier music.

Could Have Done Anything is an alt-folk record unmoored from place and time. “You and Me” begins at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson Airport, traverses three states in a Subaru, and winds up in the Rocky Mountains. Summer sunsets in Phoenix share time with a playground laid bare by winter. She goes to see the Magnetic Fields in Montreal; she wonders whether to paint her walls “white or Los Angeles blue.” And it’s never clear whether she loved the subjects of her love songs 10 years or two days ago. Youthful imagery like bike helmets and ice cream cones dance alongside car crashes and epitaphs.

The stories Cornfield tells are slippery, non-linear. When she scores tickets to that sold-out Magnetic Fields show, she sings, slyly, “That gave me points with you/That I went on to use,” and holds her date’s hand as the band gets onstage. But then, the song seems to spiral out: She feels sick and wants to be alone; she’ll never get over the relationship; she asks her partner to leave; she says the guy is evil then regrets it. What really happened? Anything, anywhere, at any time: Cornfield doesn’t need, or want, us to know the specifics.

Sometimes, this spare quality works against the album. Could Have Done Anything is not even a half-hour long—so brief it resists being held. No sooner is the listener in Cornfield’s thrall than the record is over and her spell is broken. Still, Cornfield’s words linger long after the record is over, thanks in part to her lovely and understated vocal delivery: a capacious alto, generously raspy, the influence of Lucinda Williams plain. She’s also clever as all hell, given to musical wordplay. On “Nowhere,” she plays a solitary game of call and response—“Nowhere! Nowhere! Nothing! Nothing!”—to amplify her loneliness. “In From the Rain” underscores her impatience with a fickle lover: “Waiting fooooor you to say something,” she sings, holding the note for aeons. A snare sizzles under the anaphora of opener “Gentle Like the Drugs.” The choice to repeat “I see… I see… I see…” rather than describe the images outright creates distance between Cornfield and her listener. But then, that’s the point. Her visions, already compelling on the page, throw off sparks when she conjures them aloud.

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Charlotte Cornfield: Could Have Done Anything