“People don’t change, that’s what they say,” Anika laments in the title track of her sophomore LP Change, released July 23. But the way she says it lacks credence and she quickly goes on to change her tune on the matter: “I think we have it inside / I think we can learn, I think we can change.” After all, 11 years — the time it’s been since the Berlin-based artist’s debut album was released — is a long time to stagnate. But on Change, Annika Henderson issues no evidence of having done so.
On her debut, Henderson doled out scraps of herself sparingly. The album was comprised of warped, dubbed out reimaginings of classics by the likes of Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, Skeeter Davis and others.
Anika’s vocals, which have often been compared to Nico’s, were frequently shrouded in heavy distortion and reverb. On Change, Anika bares herself in new ways, though there are certainly tokens of her past embedded throughout.
Take her vocal performance for example — dry and unembellished — and the frankness with which she delivers lyrics that see-saw between themes of pent up frustration and poised optimism. Lucid, languid and effortlessly cool, this is the same Anika that we were introduced to over a decade ago, but with nine original songs and not a cover tune in sight.
A British expat, Henderson began cultivating the seeds of what would become Change last year in the midst of a pandemic that spurred isolation, socio-political upheaval and a collective global inertia at Berlin’s Klangbild Studios. Eventually, she was joined by Martin Thulin, her bandmate from the Mexico City-based group Exploded View and together, they co-produced the album with Thulin adding live drums and bass to the otherwise predominantly electronically-textured tracklist.
Henderson harnesses the fear and uncertainty of the circumstances under which Change was birthed on the surreal and dystopian “Sand Witches,” where she speaks ploddingly and detachedly over ominous piano and thudding bass.
“I don’t like what you’ve become, I don’t like what you’ve begun to pedal, the words of the Devil / You would like that we succumb, would like that we are eaten by the God-forsaken earth / And our bodies leave no trace, just vessels to do your labor, thin wisps of smoke to do your bidding / Who are you kidding?”
Regardless, Anika is careful to not fan the flames of passivity and instead uses the unrest she feels as a harbinger for hope and empowerment: (“Tall, small, tiny, full / And feel your power / Feel your power! / Feel your power! / Feel your power!”) She bellows on “Rights” perhaps her most enthusiastic performance on the entire album.
Anika does not seem to cast much doubt on the emotions that she conveys, tending to use repetition as a device to further cement her assuredness.
In songs like “Freedom,” the lyrical echoing (“I’m not being silenced / I’m not being silenced / I’m not being silenced by anyone / I’m not being silenced / Least by you. Least by you. Least by you”) is reminiscent of an exercise in self-affirmation that when paired with a deluge of a sputtering drum machine and ethereal synth-scapes begins to teeter on the edge of hypnotic.
On Change, Anika is all too adept at utilizing her discomfort with the world around her as a rallying cry to enact the album’s namesake — the progress that comes with believing in one’s ability to be in command of their own reality.
Essential Tracks: “Change,” “Sand Witches,” “Never Coming Back” and “Rights”