ANOHNI is a generational talent, and her new album My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross
feels like a culmination of her 25-year career. She reunites after more than a decade with long-time band The Johnsons, and thus the sonic palette harkens back to their chamber pop releases from the 2000s. However, the influence of her electronic solo album Hopelessness
is felt through the presence of the maximalist instrumental builds in “Scapegoat” and “Rest”, as well as the whiplash of “Go Ahead”, which takes an immediate left turn with its bold, experimental structure.
ANOHNI’s vocal performance is chameleonic and also draws from her entire previous body of work. In “Sliver Of Ice” she plays the part of a coy lounge singer, and then a mere song later on “Can’t” she wails like a banshee, evoking urgency within the listener through her pained performance. This urgency is multiplied by the lyrical content of My Back Was A Bridge
, which overflows with sadism and masochism in equal measures. ANOHNI addresses dead family members, sings from the perspective of her dead friends, and laments our dying planet, all intertwined with both literal and metaphorical images of violence, aching joints and broken bones.
As grim as it all sounds, the overall tone of the album is confronting rather than bleak, and rather than only inspiring hopelessness it functions as a call-to-arms. One example is the massive riff that bursts into the last minute of “Scapegoat” like a sunbeam through a storm – it is an epic, awe-inspiring moment that unshackles you from the onslaught of dark themes, even if just for a moment.
And then, in the final moment of the album, ANOHNI leaves us with the message “For me / You be free for me”
. She has allowed the listener to feel the pain that she feels, but ultimately grants us permission to break through that emotion and push forward with progressive change for both ourselves and our planet.