At first glance, ‘The Future’s Void’ – sophomore effort by US singer-songwriter Erika Anderson - is a self-indulgent nightmare; with an overbearing sense of angst, a concept based around the perils of the digital age and lyrics that reference Lucifer himself, it reads like the aural equivalent of Winona’s Ryder’s tortured suicide note in ‘Beetlejuice’. Yet scratch beneath its melodramatic exterior and you’ll find a record with more to say for itself than its gloomy aesthetic will have you believe.
What perhaps best compliments the dystopian, Poe-esque environment within which the album exists is an unwavering sensibility straight from the world of pop music. Even when Anderson’s vocals are at their most coarse and the instrumentation sounds as though it wouldn’t be out of place playing in ‘Atticus’, there’s an accomplished ear for melody showcased throughout. ‘So Blonde’, an absolute powerhouse of a track, best displays this, blending sardonic lyrical content with an undeniably huge chorus, all set to the backdrop of the record’s most psychedelic instrumental. What sounds like a chaotic mess of variant styles actually manages to best encapsulate the record’s shtick and what makes the album such a compelling listen.
The record remains a fairly succinct affair, clocking in at just 44 minutes, which makes Anderson’s penchant for repetition bearable where it would otherwise be problematic. Whilst I’ve no doubt there’s theories banded about that it’s some sort of reflection of the drone-like nature of the digital age with which Anderson takes such objection, it’s a trait which teeters on over-familiarity across the course of the album.
Where the record truly excels is in its more demure offerings. ‘3Jane’ sees Anderson at her most introspective, its gentler lyrical content complimented perfectly by perhaps the most affected vocal performance on the entire record. Similarly, ‘Dead Celebrity’ is an almost hymn-like offering, set to the barren backdrop of a church organ and rolling drums.
The strongest aspect of ‘The Future’s Void’ is simply how immersive it is. Whether its lyrics spit venom or affection, its instrumental is raucous or gentle and its influences are coming from the worlds of screamo or folk, each song exists within the brooding, apocalyptic framework of its parent album. As cliché as it may seem, it’s a record whose imperfections only work towards making it the labour of love it strives to be; it plays by its own rules and sonically places EMA in a lane of her own.
Words: Liam O'Hanlon