Antony Hegarty has always been outspoken, articulate and in tune with the present day. But on the Antony and the Johnsons singer’s first album under new nom-de-plume, Anohni, her craft reaches soaring new heights. HOPELESSNESS is a protest, a warning, a call to action. Listen only briefly and you will hear melodic riffs of heartache, affliction and pain; but scratch the surface and you’ll bear witness to songs about humanity; an ode to modern-day strife. Drone warfare, global warming, capital punishment and international politics engulf every perfectly crooned note.
Musical powerhouses Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never lend production credentials, bringing their individual sounds into every song, and creating a kaleidoscopic soundscape that pays homage to voices like Joan Armatrading and 80s nostalgia, while simultaneously unleashing something entirely new: politically-charged and intelligent electronica with a meaning and message more akin to punk sentiment.
Opener, “Drone Bomb Me,” establishes the fiery and empowered soul of HOPELESSNESS from the get-go. Its anthemic synths, handclaps and triumphant drums have HudMo written all over them, but they are juxtaposed by Anohni’s tortured lyricism. The song is recounted from the perspective of a seven-year-old girl whose family has quite literally been wiped out by a targeted killing. She wishes to join them in eternal oblivion. “Blow my head off, explode my crystal guts”… never before has such tragedy sounded so hauntingly alluring.
Embracing a similar vein, “4 Degrees” boasts powerful brass and tribal drums that immediately recall Kate Bush, while its poignant lyrics lament global warming. The tone is solemn, urgent, but the message is necessary. “I want to see this world / I want to see it boil,” Anohni sings before belting out a litany of fauna that will almost certainly perish in rising temperatures.
“Violent Men” and “Obama” share darker overtones but still possess the episodic and anthemic rigour that encompasses the entire album. The latter is anything but subtle and serves as a middle finger thrust up dramatically to global leaders and the ruling elite. Anohni recounts the people’s joy when the POTUS was elected, but also how it was quickly overshadowed by war and economic strife. And “Marrow” shares similar sentiments of a poisoned world. “We are, we are all Americans now / Africa, Iceland, Europe and Brazil, China, Thailand, India and Great Britain, Australia, Borneo and Nigeria / We are, we are all Americans now.”
On HOPELESSNESS, hard and cold truths are shoved down your throat in an all-consuming, haunting and entirely enchanting manner. Anohni has metamorphosed from an outspoken feminist and talented musician, into a prominent voice of the times. The album is all at once a warning, a lament, a call to action and a glorious toast to ecofeminism.