When Anika first auditioned with Beak>, the ongoing pet project of Portishead founder Geoff Barrow, she had no idea she was sitting in with the group whose albums shaped her elder siblings’ adolescent groove sensibilities, and by extension, her own. The singer was blissful in her ignorance, further mellowed by an off-putting musical kinship. “When I first met up with Beak> I didn’t put two and two together. To be blatantly honest I didn’t realize it was Geoff,” she says by phone from the UK. “I came along and did a few jamming sessions with Beak> and it was really strange how easy it was to put what I’ve always done to what they’re doing.”
Anika was introduced to Barrow through a mutual friend in Bristol who never thought to explain who he was. Over the course of 12 days they recorded Anika, an album comprised of covers drawn from their uniquely vintage interests, a project of a different sort altogether for Anika, a seasoned writer who’s most recent work history includes time as practicing journalist. “I’ve always written not so much for an audience but more kind of for myself,” she says. “I wasn’t actually looking on purpose for the sound that [we] ended up doing, but it was the exact solution that I just didn’t know existed. It draws on all my history and all the stuff I used to be into.” Her imprint though, is still wholly evident when taking the reins from Karen Carpenter, Yoko Ono and even Bob Dylan. Anika’s voice is a warm howl, one that barely diverges from her speaking tone, melodic almost despite itself, a quality that lends fluidity to spectrum of voices the album repurposes.
The album’s opener “Terry,” removes the good vibration of Twinkle’s 1964 lovesick plea, building instead on a militaristic drumline, a desolate march made to soundtrack a film montage of reform, be it homestead or lifestyle. Further along, The Pretenders’ flowery ballad of eternal longing, “I Go To Sleep,” is made drearily psychedelic, a hammering descent into the abyss of irreplaceable loss. Even the proposition of a cover—to recreate from the created—is something excitable to Anika, as a means of exceeding her own grasp. “It’s nice to do something a bit more controversial,” she says. “We were never planning on releasing something where everyone just gives you a pat on the back and says, Oh yeah, that’s really nice… I wouldn’t have bothered taking a year out of my life to make something like that.”
Stream: Anika, Anika