HOPELESSNESS ALBUM REVIEW

HOPELESSNESS Score

Hope there’s someone who’ll take care of me,

When I die, will I go?

For ANOHNI, née Antony Hegarty, half-measures are useless. For many fans of the songstress, the first words they ever heard did not question if death was a reality, but how her reality revolved around death. Her existence was postmortem; her songs detailed the observations and expressions of someone who connected to that existence. Every baroque ballad was soulfully examining sorrow to a degree that is as harrowing as it is difficult to imitate. Coupled with a completely singular voice that amalgamates the pain of the beatniks of the new millennium, Hegarty established herself as an auteur of chamber pop for the better part of the 2000’s. But again, ANOHNI has never been one for half-measures. For every crooning tune she created, a societal ill or political affair became a focus that she steadfastly riposted. Music was just a means for the marginalized to gain a voice. And HOPELESSNESS is not just the voice of the marginalized, it’s the recount of every transgression and abusive relationship the world can have with an individual who’s as perpetually heartbroken as ANOHNI. 

If anything else, HOPELESSNESS is a statement of a certain time and place. As a debut solo record, it establishes a precedent for ANOHNI’s new direction as well as the current injustices parasitizing the Earth. And for the modern day keyboard activists, this album is the perfect rallying cry. Like patches on a biodegradable knapsack, ANONHI has fastened the trendiest issues to soul crushing vocalizations; drone bombings, global warming, the government spying, and masculine violence occupy the same emotional realm for ANOHNI. Every issue cuts her core, is as draining as the last, and invokes sobbing. The parodic nature of the political sphere seems somewhat ridiculous, but ANONHI greets the chaos of the real world and hyperbolizes the emotions with a pulpy lament. The way in which ANOHNI feels such personal betrayal to a president is almost nauseating, exuding presumptions about a candidate as if they’re an ex-lover. These moments don’t occupy the majority of HOPELESSNESS; on the contrary, the majority of songs infuse a beautifully unique perspective of these issues. Where most are ashamed of the world, ANOHNI is proud, almost infatuated, in its flaws. As if Earth is another vagabond and its issues are unchangeable, ANOHNI finds comfort in the chaos and begs for more, highlighting the unstable insanity we dip our toes in anytime we interact as a community. And where these wailing cries of pain feel genuine catharsis, on tracks such as Violent Men and the explosive single Drone Bomb Me, they’re all too often cheapened by the jilted manner in which ANONHI cries out in a desperate questioning for her separation from the Earth. The caricature of a society we find ourselves actually living in don’t seem fit for the deeply personal and impassioned musings of an eco-protestor.

But if ANOHNI has reached the zealous, yet sentimental peak of her career with HOPELESSNESS, the accompanying compositions have reached a somewhat bleak plateau. Enlisting Warp’s Oneohtrix Point Never and Kanye collaborator/one half of TNGHT, Hudson Mohawk, HOPELESSNESS severs any connection to her luscious chamber production of the past. That’s not to say walls of noise are employed; in fact, OPN and HudMo are found at their most sterile, favoring the bare electronics of poignant synth snaps and subtle drum pulses. The tenuous production can range from being evocative, exploding in the background as ANONHI stands center stage to a landscape of crumbling beauty, or plainly putter forward in a lame fashion. Very few of the songs provide proficient emotional meat, relying on the ether of a quivering synth to add to this maudlin collection of tracks. Execution limps forward like an orchestra imitating the subtle nature of The Postal Service. When producers whose expertise is this monstrous and ataxic are stiffened, the skeletal nature of the songs feels almost overly cogent. The nuance has been chemically burned and all that’s left is the basic nature of the songs: the emotional ether, the crumbling drums, and the tear-soaked wails of an impassioned woman, whose vocal timbre is exponential to the tone of each track. It’s effective, but bleaches out the complexities in favor of raw feelings and statements.

There’s a sweet spot that political records can achieve in being entertaining as much as they are vital to the conversation at hand. Sly and the Family Stone evoked cynicism and freedom in the way funk meshed with political idealism on There’s A Riot Goin’ On. It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us sampled and cultivated noise into rallying cries, but coupled them with entertaining musings from the character Flavor Flav played alongside Chuck D. These records disarm before enlightening; they unfold the fist before delivering the message. There’s a sense of ease that only strengthens the message’s brevity. ANOHNI eschews this in favor of dissolving the barrier between the issues and their affect on our hearts. It’s uncomfortable for the wrong reasons. These ideas don’t present themselves as exhausting; the powerpoint of stock images that ANOHNI projects with a straight face is what makes us tug at our collars. Political idealism is fine, but as a 42-minute manifesto, the emotionally diehard structure just adds to the white noise of outcry and injustice that’s perpetually turned to eleven.

– T. Pennington

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