It’s hard to describe the music that Erika M. Anderson makes under the name EMA. She seems, first and foremost, to be an electronic musician, yet her compositions are noisy, mutated things with elements of folk and industrial. And that’s to say nothing of her lyrics, which tackle social cancers like misogyny and poverty. That’s what this “Outer Ring” that she sings about is: The decaying edges of urban centers where economic inequality and reactionary politics have turned ordinary Americans into neo-Nazis. This album would be haunting enough even if you were somehow able to listen to it with the music off, but the abrasive soundscapes that Anderson crafts only pull you further into the world she’s depicting—a world that looks disturbingly similar to our own.|
Favorites: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9
1) “7 Years” (4:07) – Strange electronic effects and lo-fi guitar dominate the first minute of the song before breathy vocals kick in. Percussion enters just before the three-minute mark. Makes me think of Beach House, or even Cocteau Twins—like quiet shoegaze.
2) “Breathalyzer” (6:21)* – Much like The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” this is an ominous, disturbingly objective tale of substance abuse. Unlike “Heroin,” this is a lo-fi, industrial number shot through with guitar feedback and buzzing synthesizers. If you like to play abrasive, noisy stuff on your show, put this one on.
3) “I Wanna Destroy” (3:07) – A very simple song with a chorus and two verses. Lo-fi guitar strumming with some noisier guitar effects in the background that take over in the final minute of the song.
4) “Blood and Chalk” (3:17)* – Are the lyrics of this song about adolescence or a police shooting? Not even Anderson knows. Starts out as a piano-driven number and becomes much noisier after the first minute and a half.
5) “Down and Out” (3:37)* – You know what this one sounds like? Elliott Smith, strangely. Deceptively upbeat-sounding guitar strumming with subtle, persistent percussion. Oh yeah, and some whirring electronic effects.
6) “Fire Water Air LSD” (3:48) – Another industrial number with abrasive electronic textures. There’s a weird spoken-word section just after the two-minute mark, then it’s back to the punishment. It’s like heavy metal with a synthesizer instead of a guitar.
7) “Aryan Nation” (2:53)* – Another lo-fi guitar song that cuts pretty close to grunge. Gnarly guitar solo a minute in. Probably the most political track, looking at the intersection between poverty, drug addiction, and alt-right tendencies.
8) “33 Nihilistic and Female” (3:26) – Musically, this one’s harder to pin down. Distant, clattering percussion and raspy, often shouted lyrics about being a woman of a certain age in the music industry.
9) “Receive Love” (3:19)* – Compared to much of what’s come before, this song is so stripped-down it’s almost a folk tune, although still punctuated with electric guitar. It’s a very lyrically unsettling tale about the hateful, violent things that men can say about women. (Don’t give me that #NotAllMen bullshit. Now is not the time nor the place.)
10) “Always Bleeds” (5:20) – Starts with a guitar that sounds somehow processed—too clean and refined to be an undiluted electric guitar. Builds in intensity after the first minute before simmering down after the three-minute mark. Kind of a lackluster song, to be honest.
11) “Where the Darkness Began” (1:53) – A spoken word poem over a dark and brooding instrumental. It scares the hell out of me, and I love it.