I want to make this clear from the get-go: Anohni has crafted one of the most powerful vocal performances I’ve heard in years, wrapping it in incredibly sumptuous production that sounds like virtually nothing else out there in 2016.
With her incredible voice backed by innovative sounds by Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never (a longtime favorite of mine), this album instantly became my favorite work by the artist formerly known as Antony. Her gender transition seemed to herald a new boldness and sense of purpose, as these 11 songs definitively show.
Anohni tackles worldwide political violence with nuance, heart, and sense of wonder in such personal, agonizing detail that it’s impossible to look away. Whether exhorting the powers that be to Drone Bomb Me or asking, Why Did You Separate Me From The Earth?, she conveys the raw power and sheer insanity of our modern world with the up-close drama of a first person account. To listen to this album is to witness a real magic trick, conjuring relatable human-sized drama from the grand entropy of humanity itself.
Her voice soars and roars, relating stories of pain and suffering, discovery and elation, and of course, the relentless attack on the idea of hope itself. This incredible drama is lifted from any semblance of lecture by the industrial tinged synthetic perfection of the production. Instead, it’s music that you feel first and think about second. She knows that to understand the big story, we have to relate to it first.
Beyond its function as a righteous critique of first world hegemony and its inherent vice, Hopelessness is also incredibly catchy, achingly gorgeous electronic pop music.
The cultural atmosphere surrounding the release of this album, the critical and popular acclaim erupting around Anohni, reminds me of Björk at her peak, when Homogenic was haunting the existential collapse of love twenty years ago. At that moment, despite its heavy handed imagery and weighty subject matter, audiences couldn’t celebrate enough. Björk was making overtly political, personal, strange electronic music and getting well-deserved recognition, growing her audience exponentially.
In another striking analogue, Anohni comes to the table with world renowned producers but is absolutely in command of the project down to every detail. Some might point to Oneohtrix Point Never’s influence as a defining characteristic of this album’s sound, but make no mistake: this is Anohni’s album in every conceivable way, her laser blast into the broken heart of the world itself.
Here’s the second track, 4 Degrees. While it’s not my favorite song on the album, it is a perfectly fine introduction to the beautiful sound of our world being cracked open and examined.