Berlin-born, Bristol-based journalist Anika joins Portishead's
Geoff Barrow (and Beak>) for this triumphant debut. Though
they constructed it quickly, Anika recaptures the post-punk
era at its best while sounding simultaneously of-the-moment.
It doesn't hurt that the songs come on like future classics, but
it's Anika's deadpan, Teutonic-inflected vocals and the hypnotic
instrumental backing that make this LP such a standout. Im-
agine Dennis Bovell producing Nico or Neneh Cherry fronting
Public Image Limited, and you've got the gist. The disc manag-
es to be sophisticated yet spirited, mature yet adventurous.
Click here for Anika's version.
Granted, six of the nine tracks are covers, not counting the dub
version of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," which wraps up the set in
fine style, but Anika never feels like a greatest hits collection or a
schizophrenic grab bag. Others include "Yang Yang" (Yoko Ono),
"End of the World" (written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee,
recorded by Skeeter Davis), and "I Go to Sleep" (the Kinks).
In Dave Segal's interview with the singer for The Stranger, he
writes, "She also puts a minimalistically quirky spin on Twink-
le's 'Terry' [and] Greta Ann's 'Sadness Hides the Sun'." (Until I
read his piece, I didn't realize those songs were also covers.)
During the Gulf War, Mark Arm issued a version of "Masters"
through the Sub Pop Singles Club, but Anika's bass-heavy ren-
dition drives the lyrics home in an entirely different way. She al-
so adds commentary from an Iraq War vet, which shouldn't work,
but does. As he puts it, "I've been told we were fighting terrorists.
The real terrorist is me, and the real terror is this occupation."
Click here for Anika's version.
I've got to give it up for an artist who would even think to assem-
ble such a diverse array of material, let alone to do it justice. This
is a surprisingly cohesive enterprise with no off-key moments. Ev-
er since I picked up the CD, I haven't been able to stop playing it.
I'm sure Anika's voice won't be to all tastes, but it works so well
with the music that I don't see how anyone could find it too irri-
tating, even listeners who prefer more conventional vocalists.
Click here for the Kinks original.
Then again, I tend to gravitate towards singers who make up
in style or originality what they lack in range or finesse, like
Broadcast's Trish Keenan (who passed away yesterday).
Anika isn't as quirky as fellow German immigrant Arianna For-
ster, AKA the late Ari Up, but I'd like to think that she'll also
appeal to fans of the Slits, the New Age Steppers, Pigbag, and
Rip Rig + Panic. And that's about the highest praise I can give.
Update: Anika plays the Crocodile Cafe on Sunday, 10/16/11.
Mike Gibbons, Marigolds: The Bang-
kok Sessions, self-released [4/12/11]
Recorded in Bangkok, Marigolds offers baroque folk-pop from a heart-on-his-sleeve Bay Area troubadour who recalls Cat Stevens. His third LP features 11 originals plus "Talkin' Bout a Revolution."
Whitney Nichole, 100 Strong, Clay Spoon Music [3/8/11]
This San Francisco chanteuse piles glissando on top of
glissando in service of polished country-pop in which
orchestral flourishes mingle with a cappella interlud-
es. Like Faith Hill singing the Beyoncé songbook.
Tiny Animals, Our Own Time, North Street Records [4/5/11]
Emo-style vocals and tight harmonies dominate the second
effort from New York trio Chris, Rita, and Anton. Not bad,
but I prefer 2009's Sweet Sweetness (click for review).
Endnote: For more information about Mike Gibbons,
please click here; for Whitney Nichole, here; and for
Tiny Animals, here. Anika image from The Quietus.