Rating: 8 / 10 Stars
REVIEW – ‘Do Your Worst’, the new album by Erin Anne, will be released on Friday, June 10 through Carpark Records.
When the world is collapsing around you, sometimes the only option is to trample it all loose. ‘Do Your Worst’, Erin Anne’s dazzling, energizing sophomore album, chronicles that reckless journey through calamity. Erin’s exploration of the line between human and machine is furthered with the addition of a new ensemble of digital instruments to the sound on this album, which was written among the ruins of personal tragedy and commercial frustration, which was then worsened by the destruction of a worldwide epidemic. The L.A.-based musician employs a cyborg identity to express a sense of alienation as a gay artist striving to survive the mechanisms of capitalism. ‘Do Your Worst’ challenges the world with bright, intertwining synths and Auto-Tuned vocals: Whatever you have in store, I’ll take it standing.
Erin’s second album was written shortly after she added a MIDI keyboard and voice processing devices to her home studio. While experimenting with her new equipment, she discovered that she could work similarly to the artists and producers she admired. ‘Do Your Worst’ is influenced by the sound of Patrick Cowley, the disco and hi-NRG producer best known for his collaborations with SYLVESTER. Erin was captivated by Cowley’s use of vocoder in his 1982 album ‘Mind Warp’, in which his warped voices produce a queer, mutant subjectivity. This album resonated against the devastation of the AIDS pandemic; Erin saw relevance in Cowley’s music amid the current pandemic. She adds, “I have found the most catharsis and the most safety in listening to the music of people in really, really horrific circumstances making something lasting and profoundly beautiful.”
‘Do Your Worst’, which was mixed by Sarah Tudzin of Illuminati Hotties, has tracks such as “Typhoid Mary” and “Florida” that address loss, despondency, and humiliation. “This Hungry Body” examines pandemic-era touch famine, while “Mirror Mirror” focuses on the poisonous but essential funhouse of social media. On the fun, guitar-driven track “Eve Polastri’s Last Two Brain Cells Have a Debate,” Erin examines gay codependency and masochism via the espionage thriller TV program Killing Eve. Among these tense topics, Erin Anne discovers possibilities for release. She creates internal struggle on such a grand scale that its nuances begin to emerge; if they do not resolve, they become tangible.
“I’m very much a maximalist when it comes to production. I like vast landscapes. I like a stratosphere and a core — I want the bass to be beneath the floor,” Erin explains. “This record is, in a lot of ways, a collection of some of the first moments that I was technologically able to achieve accurate renderings of how I hear my own emotional world.”
Erin Anne’s work as a guitarist, synthesizer player, vocalist, and composer is influenced by her writing and study on queer ways of hearing and producing music. She operates on the idea that there is no such thing as objective hearing — that everything we listen to is colored by who we are, where we’ve been, and the people we share our experience with. Her piercing, guitar-laced synth-pop subverts dominant concepts of virtuosity and canon-building, enabling listeners to partake in the joy of sensory experience, where fresh musical pleasure is created.
Erin, a native of New Jersey, attended college at Bowdoin and resided in Portland, Maine for a period before relocating to Los Angeles to seek a Ph.D. in musicology at UCLA. Her study on the relationship between bodies and technology, as well as queer subjectivity in pop, has a direct impact on her songwriting and production.
Erin had very little access to queer music and art that mirrored her identity as a teenager in New Jersey. The documentary The Punk Singer, which chronicles the life and work of Kathleen Hanna, singer for the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, radically altered her perspective upon commencing her university education. Erin, inspired by Hanna, formed her own riot grrrl band and began experimenting with the guitar’s ability to produce sounds outside of masculine ideas of physical might — how she might arrange music to her own taste.
Erin released her debut solo album, ‘Tough Love’, in 2019 and shortly afterwards earned a contract with Carpark Records. Erin fuses her vocals with its technical accompaniments on both ‘Tough Love’ and the upcoming ‘Do Your Worst’, sowing wonderful ambiguity about where the person stops and the supporting technology starts. For her, it’s an imaginary seam. The fun begins when everything that is intended to be kept separate flows together and develop new forms amid the chaos.
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