Anna Atkinson makes mysterious music. As a person she’s open, unassuming, lacking all the pretension I expect from a woman producing the kind of stuff she does. As an artist, however, she’s an enigma. The contrast between those two personas only amplifies the mystery of her music.
Atkinson herself doesn’t seem to understand the mystical undercurrents that come through her music — or maybe she just pretends she doesn’t. Hell, I don’t know. For decades Tom Waits has pretended he’s just a hoarse joker cranking out ballroom ballads and Halloween songs. I find that impossible to believe, as well, but who am I to cast doubt on another person’s self-assessment?
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with them, anyway. Maybe it’s the spirits they’re channeling.
Anyway, I first interviewed Atkinson in 2017 following the release of Sky Stacked Full, which is one of the most interesting albums released in the last few years. In that work, Atkinson shows her uncommon talent for combining experimental musicianship with emotional urgency. It’s a balance few can achieve (thinking again of Mr. Waits).
Experimental music too often sacrifices human warmth for novelty. Atkinson, however, finds a way to maintain balance between originality and approachability. It definitely helps that she’s got the voice she does. She can sing you to sleep and break you down crying all at the same time.
I discovered Atkinson late one night after finding out my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. It was a rough time for me, mercifully forgotten now for the most part. What I remember clearly about that night, however, is stumbling upon “When We Were Young.”
If Atkinson produced nothing else, I’d still hold her in the highest esteem as one of my favorite artists for “When We Were Young” alone. Luckily, she indeed has produced other songs, and is still producing them. She’s got a new album coming out soon, in fact. I got a sneak listen. It’s damn good. I’ll be writing about that one, as well.
For now, though, I’ll wrap this up and leave you with “When We Were Young.”
Have you heard of Anna Atkinson? If not, you should have. Check her out. She makes the kind of stuff that leaves you staring out your bedroom window at night wondering what the city’s hiding. The kind of stuff to carry you through news that your mother is sick.
Lots of music today isn’t good for much more than a drunken jig at a karaoke bar — easily danced to and just as easily forgotten. Atkinson’s music does something else.
In the Silence After
After the chattering of the birds has silenced, and the animals in their dumb hordes have moved on to their next orgy