Anika from Berlin returns with an expressive record of hope and resistance: ‘Change’
Berlin-based singer-songwriter Annika Henderson, who uses the stage name Anika– has a very transporting quality in his music. This is what made his eponymous debut in 2010 such a cult success. With stripped-down but evocative arrangements and simple yet poetic lyrics, she created something hauntingly beautiful, like Nico redesigned for the 21st century.
Following the release of Anika, Henderson founded Exploded view and spent most of the 2010s working on this project. But now, on July 23, she’s back with a new solo offering: Change, his second studio album.
Heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the album is an introspective and informative tour through the 34-year-old’s views on the past year. It speaks from personal experience while embracing a holistic understanding. Yet, as is the case with many artists these days, the record-making process actually began before the pandemic hit – it wasn’t until after things started to shut down that Henderson has shifted into high gear.
“In fact, I ended up throwing away everything I had written before,” she explained. “I mean, it got me where I needed to be, but suddenly there were so many more urgent things going on. The first lockdown was so intense and there was a lot going on in my personal life. I also couldn’t write at home because I had a full house, so I booked five days in the studio in May. I just brought in a few drum loops, found some chord progressions, and then I went a little crazy in the studio, writing new lyrics and everything.
Songs like “Finger pies” talk about the provocative mood of disgust many feel towards those who only put themselves first (especially those in power). Other songs like “Never come back” capture the sense of loss that accompanies things like environmental degradation. With these mixed themes, the album gives a much needed space to deal with the events of the last few years.
“I have been influenced in different ways,” said Henderson. “There was so much going on in the world that I didn’t really understand. There had been Brexit, where people were voting for England to leave the European Union, and the reasons they were voting for it were very strange. Likewise, in the United States, everything was with Trump and society was becoming more and more divided. Then there was the #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. So there were a lot of divisions and things just didn’t make sense. Specifically, I felt like there was so much wrong with power, you know? But the point is, people were voting for it, people were feeding the monster… I just don’t get it.
At the time, Henderson responded to this disbelief by educating himself about the world. She dived into Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of Evhe, Hannah Arendt’s 1963 articulated book on Adolf Eichmann’s trial, she began to find answers… which led her to write even more songs.
“This book is interesting because it deals with how the Nazis would execute evil through bureaucracy,” she said. “The person responsible for the act belonged to an administrative department, so the person who actually carried out the act was not“ responsible ”. Then, after Hitler’s fall, Eichmann was put on trial. So, I was really interested in watching: how is evil judged after being lost? Even with what was going on in the US in 2020 – a lot of the permanents were supporting this guy who was going to fall … now he might try to get up, so I think everyone needs to be prepared for that. Like, what happens then? Even with the #MeToo movement, it’s very often that sins are pinned on that person, who is then sent to float on a flaming raft like, “Okay, we’ve got it fixed now!” No, no, you didn’t. What about all the other things? What about the whole system that’s rotten to the core? These bigger problems are bigger than one person.
For Henderson, this awareness was paramount – it became the central theme of the record. “I think that we can change, ”she said. “There are a lot of people who maybe voted for these things, but I don’t think that makes them bad. Maybe they can change, you know? So that’s a message of hope — it’s good to hope we’re not doomed. Now we can start to see the patterns of everything that is going on around us. Something like COVID-19 turned everything upside down, so we have the space now; we really have to be active in what is going to be built in its place. Right now, instead, a great power is building all of these nasty things in place of what came before. “
To do this, work on Change throughout the pandemic has become an essential guiding light – now, by sharing it, she hopes others can connect with this magical power. “There was a point before this process where I was considering leaving music,” she revealed. “But when 2020 came, music was all I had and it saved me, one way or another. It wasn’t even the pandemic specifically, that was it – everything had turned to sand. So the album was cool… it came from a place of need. It wasn’t like I was like, “Oh, I’m going to write songs about these specific topics”, it was more because I didn’t know what to do, so I made these songs. Now I am sharing this journey so I hope I can pass it on. Maybe things can start to change, who knows? It’s just important to do Something. I don’t really know how else to resist what’s going on.
Ultimately, Change hits the sweet spot for the art of resistance. Yes, he certainly rejects a broken status quo that causes unspeakable horror around the world, but perhaps more importantly, he radically embraces a deep quality of humanity. Giving respect to everything from the importance of love to an individual’s rights to the beauty of the birds singing in spring, the album is an invaluable source of light in less brilliant times.
Anika’s new album Change is out now – watch the music video for the main song “Change” below: