One record that would have made my list for last year had I heard it prior to the last week of December is Anika‘s self-titled debut on Stones Throw. Bill over at Sound Bites was more astute than I and smartly included it on his list which is how I found out about it. Anika was a political journalist who somehow met former Portishead maestro Geoff Barrow in Berlin and bonded over dub, punk and girl groups. That sounds like a match made in heaven if you ask me. Barrow was actually looking for a singer for his new band Beak>, somehow over recording the record live, raw and strictly no over dubs in a mere twelve days it no longer was a Beak record but an Anika one.
Anika sounds more than a little like Nico. She sings a little flat and off key and with little emotion. On paper this shouldn’t work, but oh how it does. Barrow and Beak create a sparse dub soundtrack and while the majority of the nine songs on the record are covers they sound so different from the originals that you easily forget about them being covers. The record starts out with a cover of Twinkle‘s Terry (You may remember Twinkle’s Golden Lights as covered by the Smiths). Terry has similarities to the Shangri-Las‘ Leader of the Pack, and this rendition with its Speak and Spell synths and grand piano makes it sound so desolate, bleak and weird. It’s delivered as if by the Grim Reaper herself, and you know Terry is doomed. From there the bombs drop and this dub record sounds like a war zone. The air raid sirens sound and Yoko Ono‘s Yang Yang hits and soon thereafter a reinvention of Dylan‘s Masters of War and the Kinks‘ I Go To Sleep which takes on an Eno-esque quality. There are two originals Officer Officer and No One’s There both with big Jah Wobble bass lines that hold their own. This is one stark record and some amazing slight of hand by all involved making this record sound as cohesive as it does from it’s seemingly incompatible pieces to create an uncomfortable warmth that makes it impossible to put down.