REVIEW: Anika — Self Titled (EP)
I can hear a lot of California in Anika’s music. The Laguna Beach-based artist is capable of embodying balmy Southern California climes through her music, but it’s far from the whole story. In fact, it’s only a small part. The biggest story coming out of her self-titled debut EP is how this gifted young songwriter, vocalist, and performer understands so early how to achieve a workable synthesis between serious art and glossy yet musically meaningful pop arrangements. It’s a notable accomplishment in a musical world where such moments are increasingly harder to find in the mainstream.
That’s where she’s headed if she isn’t already there. Anika and producer Mark Vogel understand how to get her there without sacrificing anything she has to say along the way. Her messages in each of the debut EP’s six songs are universal. Everyone, men or women, has experienced the charge of falling in love with someone and wanting to be pivotal to them as she explores in “Are You Down?”
The song is a successful single for Anika and it’s easy to hear why. Vogel has ably assisted her by presenting their mini pop symphony in the best possible sonic light and attentive listeners will relish the details laden into this performance. It doesn’t risk overkill, however. It’s easy to hear how many of these songs began life with Anika behind a piano and later built up from there, but it’s very impressive that they’ve managed to capture both worlds. You can hear those beginnings and then the song transports listeners elsewhere.
“Back to You” shares similar musical and lyrical impulses. It’s a little less “constructed” than the opener, or at least sounds like it, and much of that is likely attributable to the drumming differences between the two songs. The near minimalist pulse of the opener has changed into a much more conventional groove oriented approach listeners are sure to enjoy. It has plenty of mainstream potential as well.
Some of the songs sound like they began life after the recording process began. “Dance All Night” doesn’t boast any lofty ambitions and that’s just fine as its obvious goal of engaging the listener with physical music more than finds its mark. The track “Dancing in the Rain” goes full-on ballad but never the saccharine bloat that characterizes the majority of efforts in this area. She delivers what I consider the EP’s best vocal with this performance, though her singing during “Are You Down?” has to come in at a close second.
“Makes Me Wanna” is another single for Anika that’s garnered considerable attention. The fat bass and percussion snaking its way through the song has instant appeal and she turns in yet another lights out vocal performance far surpassing what the genre typically gets. It’s clear that Anika has vocal chops for days and can direct them in practically any direction she chooses. Her performances on this debut EP will definitely help make a name for herself as one of the pre-eminent rising talents in today’s indie scene and sets her up for even greater success to come.