Exile in the Outer Ring

City Slang

Aug 24, 2017 Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear Bookmark and Share

Find It At: AMAZON

There's a simple elegance to Erika M. Anderson's music, produced under the name EMA. Sometimes her sound fills out with reverb and distortion, giving it a more complicated feel, but at her best she's a crafter of impressively haunting pop songs that serve rather than distort the message.

Make no mistake, this is a political record, a snapshot of a society lost and angry. The longer her third LP plays, the more political it becomes, as lead single "Aryan Nation" proves. She's not a blunt songwriter, nor is she riding a high horse, but sometimes the message must be delivered clearly. Anderson does just that mulling over the frustration and bitterness echoing out from the forgotten Midwest she herself hails from.

She seems to instinctively understand an environment slowly eating itself, a middle ground cut off from the prosperity of the coasts. And she loves this world alternately mocked and ignored by the metropolitan elites. Yet while she understands, Anderson doesn't condone when anger turns toxic. Exile in the Outer Ring is a cry of pain and a lament that filters in just enough hope.

The drone-folk sound of Gowns, the band the South Dakota singer/songwriter previously fronted, is still present, and while she retains a fondness for repetition, sometimes to her detriment, there's a faster, more insistent approach across tracks like "Breathalyzer" and "I Wanna Destroy."

And yet it's those haunting songs that hit hardest. "7 Years" builds to a soaring finale, while "Blood and Chalk" and "Down and Out" mix minimalist repetition with good old crafted guitar pop. The latter sees Anderson declaring "Everyone thinks you're worthless/When you're down and out" and ends with her crying "What are you hoping/What are you hoping for?" It's a question that could do with being asked some more. (www.iwannadestroy.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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