It’s been over a decade since Annika Henderson released her self-titled debut album under the Anika moniker, but the lengthy time taken to release her sophomore effort thankfully hasn’t dulled her style and sophistication. Change is surprising and sexy, playful and powerful; its greatest contradiction, though, is that between hope and hopelessness, a true-to-life interplay for an album with a 2021 release date.
Sonically, the former political journalist has struck a fine balance between alluring post-punk – the Brtish ex-pat is based in Berlin after all – and lighter, more delicate art-pop. Often dramatic but mostly dry, she delivers it all with languorous panache. It’s why her voice has drawn comparisons to the legendary Nico; current post-punk acts such as Dry Cleaning and Sinead O’Brien have found critical success by using a similarly deadpan talking vocal delivery. The incessant eerie percussion of ‘Naysayer’ is innately indebted to her Berlin surroundings, as is the cleverly-titled ‘Sand Witches’, Anika sounding very much like Nico if she fronted Broadcast in the droning electronica piece.
Anika makes use of repetition to enforce her points throughout. “I’m not being silenced by anyone,” she powerfully intones in ‘Freedom’, its strength wrought from its repetitive quality. “And now you’re never coming back,” she chants again and again in ‘Never Coming Back’. Much of Change sounds nihilistic, particularly in its droning and unrelenting rhythm, but Anika’s words shroud it in contradictions. It’s never clearer than in ‘Critical’: “I always give my man the last word,” she sings, seemingly admitting to lying down to a partner, before she wryly notes that she’s also given him the little gift of cyanide; it’s a sublime lyrical twist that expertly captures the balance between power and powerlessness.
After eerie post-punk rhythmic flashes and songs named after sexual slang and interplay between nihilism and optimism, it’s a genuinely surprising touch when Anika closes the album with ‘Wait For Something’, beholden to only an acoustic guitar. It’s welcomingly tender and much-needed light relief after the seriousness of what preceded it. In its anxious atmosphere and messy sprawl of emotions, Change is challenging but worthwhile music. You only hope that it’s not another decade before Henderson is prepared to secede to the Anika project again; such power and hopefulness in the face of mordant futility is always needed.