Published Feb 25, 2013The first time I listened to Autre Ne Veut's Anxiety front-to-back, I turned it off around the halfway point. It wasn't that it was bad; it was overwhelming.
Having heard the snapping, downtempo "Counting," I was expecting an R&B album, something smooth and effortless — two words nobody could use to describe the aptly titled Anxiety. Upon listening again (and again and again), Anxiety unpacked itself, showing beauty in its oddness and frontman Arthur Ashin's strained, expressive tenor. Ashin's sense of melody is impeccable, and the emotion he wrings from his voice is staggering. Even more captivating, once you've digested them, are his arrangements, which harness drone-y, distorted noise, synthesized strings, saxophones, drum machines and choir vocals to express tension and release after the years of anxiety Ashin suffered as a youth, according to the album press release.
The songs are appropriately tumultuous and fluid: opener "Play By Play" begins with washes of fluttering harp strings before locking into a groove and exploding with a full-harmony, grandiose chorus; "Warning" finds Ashin singing falsetto over a somehow sparse, distorted guitar lead before he busts out a lung-bursting wail during the song's emotional, staccato string climax. Overwrought and borderline embarrassing at times, Anxiety is cathartic pop perfection served up sans irony and with tons of gusto. It's perfect for nights spent standing in front of your mirror wailing into a hairbrush; and for the days you just wish you could. (Software)