Anohni returns with a more dance-orientated album. Aided by Hudson Mohawke and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) Hopelessness sees Anohni reach for the dance-floor with thrilling results. Simon Tucker reviews:
For Anohni to create what is basically a dance record is not that big of a surprise to those that have been paying attention to her wonderfully eclectic output. From her early baroque-pop output (as Anthony and the Johnson’s) through to her work with Hercules and the Love Affair, Anohni has always forged her own path, going wherever her muse takes her. With Hopelessness, Anohni creates what is on the surface a euro-dance album full of synths, strings and repetitive bass patterns but once you dig deeper and absorb the album and its lyrical content you will realise that this is no normal dance record. In fact, Hopelessness is one of the bleakest and most lyrically challenging albums that has been released in a long while. Politics, climate change, murder, are just a few of the themes that run through the album making it a challenging listen lyrically but due to the production and musical accompaniment, one of the most uplifting and joyous. It’s a very fine balancing act that takes a great amount of skill to pull off but pull it off she does, with aplomb.
First single, Drone Bomb Me sets the stall out early as the music swoops and soars, euphoric and joyous yet this is all backing for lyrics about someone wanting to be the victim of a drone strike, wishing for it to come and “blow my head off” and “explode my crystal guts”. Catchy, yet traumatic Drone Bomb Me starts the album as it means to go on. What happens next is a revelation and possibly the greatest moment on the album as we get 4 Degrees, a song so driving and euphoric that you forget that you are dancing and singing along to a song about climate change and the affect it is having on the Earth’s animal population. On 4 Degrees Anohni places herself as a character stating “it’s only four degrees”, at once dismissing this rise in Earth’s temperature but then as the song progresses we realise that this character is not actually dismissing it but actually willing it to happen, wanting to “see it boil” and to “see the animals die in the trees”. Over a backing of Burundi-like drums and stabbing strings the song is Anohni’s Hounds of Love moment, so powerful it makes you feel you could run through walls.
Watch Me brings us to NSA and the American government’s snooping. Instead of just a straight-forward “how dare they” Anohni turns the authorities into a father figure that is watching her to protect her from child molestation and terrorism. Sarcasm drips through Watch Me like oil, smearing it in snarls and smirks.
Execution twinkles in on a bed of electronic percussion and is full of slight textures almost nursery rhyme in nature and like all good nursery rhymes it is only when you hear the words where the narrator is begging to be executed as it’s “an American dream” to go out like they do to civilians in China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It is after this and I Don’t Love You Anymore where we get to the true heart of the album with Obama, a song that removes us from the club and places us in the home of someone full of disappointment at the way the current President has conducted his affairs. Explaining to us the hope she felt when Obama was elected we then get a list of events and actions that have proven that this hope was misguided. Let down by foreign policy decisions, executions without trial (Bin Laden?) and its treatment of whistle-blowers, Obama is a no-holds barred state of the union address. A letter to POTUS. Add to this the fact that on Obama, Anohni’s vocals are pitched down and you get something truly unsettling.
Musically, Hopelessness then slowly returns us back to the euphoric (albeit via the crunching and disjointed Violent Men and the heavy bass dub rhythms of Crisis) but never once letting up on the heavy lyrical subjects, the most powerful of which is the title track itself where Anohni reveals her guilt at the carbon footprint that she, and the rest of us, inevitably leave just by existing even going so far as equating herself to a virus.
Hopelessness is an outstanding listen, one that has a clear message and intent. It is harsh, disturbing, and brutal yet thanks to the music it is euphoric, joyous, and uplifting. Truly remarkable, Hopelessness is Anohni’s finest work to date and once again proves what a unique and visionary artist she truly is.