Essential New Music: ANOHNI’s “Hopelessness”


ANOHNI—the former Antony Hegarty—is no stranger to astonishing, emotionally powerful music. But Hopelessness is another world—not merely a new name and identity, but a fresh, singular artistic vision, blasting past the cabaret stylings and poignant melodramatics of her “and the Johnsons” oeuvre into sumptuous, future-immediate pop art and piercing, consciousness-exploding rhetoric. Although “Björk-like” might be the most obnoxiously overused/misused comparison in all of music, what ANOHNI achieves here recalls little so much as what the Icelandic visionary (and frequent Hegarty collaborator) accomplished on, in particular, Post and Homogenic. Not so much vocally—the two artists’ voices remain equally sui generis—but in sound, scope and general approach, teaming with cutting-edge producers (in this case, Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never) to craft lush, varied electro-organic soundscapes that are at once idiosyncratic and monumental, arrestingly strange and vibrantly pop. Lyrically, it’s an uncompromising (albeit nuanced and often wry) alarm call on multiple fronts—ecological, sociological, military-institutional—and easily the most passionate and devastating pop political statement since the Knife’s similarly ambitious Shaking The Habitual. An epic, potentially epoch-making release.

—K. Ross Hoffman