ANOHNI’s music tends toward the insular, searing torch songs of loneliness and longing brought to operatic grandeur by her throaty tenor, which seems to vibrate not only heartstrings but concrete foundations. HOPELESSNESS, her first studio album in six years, is a radical break in lyrical scope, swapping depressive personal tales for political rage. The environment, modern warfare and disillusionment are not exactly staples of ANOHNI’s repertoire, yet against expectation, the artist has produced her greatest album since 2005’s I Am a Bird Now.

If ANOHNI’s music typically projects the intimate into gargantuan proportions, HOPELESSNESS does the opposite. Opener “Drone Bomb Me” is chillingly rendered from the perspective of an Afghani child who stares up into the sky and defies the drone undoubtedly watching her to “Blow me from the side of the mountain.” ANOHNI brings her usual tone of longing to the track, mixing its vicious sarcasm with what sounds like a genuine death drive. That combination of sincerity and acidic wit extends to the next song, the climate change anthem “4 Degrees.” Here, the singer takes climate denial to its willful extreme, triumphantly anticipating the complete destruction of the world in a mass conflagration. “I wanna burn the sky, I wanna burn the breeze,” she sings in the track’s most disturbing moment of sardonic glee.

The rest of the album follows suit with this unbridled fury. “Obama” lacks the soaring arrangement of the first two tracks, but its stripped-down production and processed vocals capture the weariness among those who dared to hope in 2008 and now face a president whose mixed record includes a general expansion of military excursions and reneged-upon promises for progressive reform. Written before the president’s lame-duck surge of accomplishment, lines like “Like children, we believed” recall the pervading frustration among leftists and liberals that has only now been tempered by belated efforts. Linked to that song is “Crisis” could be the name of any track on the album but here lists a number of atrocities carried out in recent memory, and its foreground kick drum has the calm insistence of an approaching, organized enemy. Even the final chants of “I’m sorry” comes off like ANOHNI’s revision to “Obama,” an acknowledgment of an attempt to move forward but also an indication that it is too little, too late.

Occasionally, the artist circles back to lyrics more in her usual wheelhouse. “I Don’t Love You Anymore” retains the kiss-off vibe of the record but applies it to more typical romance, albeit one where the unnamed lover left the singer both on the curb and “without body heat.” Out of context, it could be one of her usual torch songs, but here it could be a challenge to the West itself; a castigation over a sense of abandonment. That feeling is bolstered by “Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth,” which rides synth-pop chords into a freewheeling, one-sided conversation between a freshly released soul and the God who allowed the speaker to shuffle off her mortal coil in what is assumed to be a large-scale nightmare.

Though ANOHNI does not trade in much subtlety on the album, she nonetheless never suggests that her anger is productive. Instead, she posits that anger as proof of the irreconcilable complexity of the issues we face. “Watch Me” is a takedown of the surveillance state, but even as it excoriates “Daddy” for looking into medical histories and web histories, space is also made to note that it protects her from evil. As sarcastic as the “praise” is, it represents the artist’s attempt to grapple with the situation, to understand how this new system proliferated largely with the public’s consent and of the perils inherent to it. The title track collapses into a nihilism that at last seems self-directed more than socially oriented, though it’s less the result of depression or introversion than a loss of collective value of life. That’s true of closer “Marrow” as well, which says “We are all Americans now” in a perversion of post-9/11 sloganeering to comment on a globalist society being actively drained of sustainable resources by a pan-national sense of greed and gain. ANOHNI’s great achievement with these songs is to toe the line of simple anthems while using her naturally introspective voice to compartmentalize these horrors. Nearly all political albums sound like the petulant rants of their makers as told over beers to friends; HOPELESSNESS is the rare album to deliberately call attention to that fact, and how impotent it makes both listener and creator feel.

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