Berlin-based singer-songwriter Annika Henderson—who uses the stage name Anika—has an utterly transportive quality to her music. That’s what made her 2010 self-titled debut such a cult-hit. With stripped-back yet evocative arrangements and straightforward yet poetic lyrics, she created something hauntingly beautiful, like Nico reimagined for the 21st century.
Following the release of Anika, Henderson founded Exploded View and spent the better part of the 2010s working on that project. But now, on July 23, she’s back with a new solo offering: Change, her second full-length studio album.
Heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the album is an introspective and enlightening tour through the 34-year-old’s views of the past year. It speaks to her personal experience while also embracing a global understanding. Yet, like the case with many artists these days, the record-making process actually began before the pandemic hit—it just wasn’t until after things started to shut down that Henderson kicked into high gear.
“I actually ended up throwing everything away that I had written prior,” she explained. “I mean, it got me to where I needed to be, but suddenly, there were just so many more pressing matters going on. The first lockdown was so intense and there was a lot of stuff going on in my personal life. I also couldn’t write at home because I had a full house, so I booked five days in the studio in May. I just brought in some drum loops, figured out some chord progressions, and then kinda just went crazy in the studio, writing new lyrics and everything.”
Songs like “Finger Pies” speak to the defiant mood of disgust many feel towards those who only prioritize themselves (especially those in power). Other tracks like “Never Coming Back” capture the sense of loss that comes with things like environmental degradation. With these themes blended together, the album gives some much-needed space for processing the events of the past few years.
“I was influenced in many different ways,” Henderson said. “There was just so much going on in the world that I didn’t really understand. There was Brexit happening, where people were voting for England to leave the European Union, and the reasons they were voting for it were very odd. Similarly, in the States, everything was going on with Trump and society was growing more divided. Then, there was the #MeToo movement and the Black Lives Matter movement. So, there was a lot of division and things just didn’t make sense. Specifically, it felt like there was so much evil in power, you know? But the fact is, people were voting for it, people were feeding the monster… I just don’t get it.”
At the time, Henderson responded to this disbelief by reading up on the world. She dove into Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt’s articulate 1963 book on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, she started to find some answers… which led her to write even more songs.
“This book is interesting because it’s about how the Nazis would execute evil through bureaucracy,” she said. “The person responsible for the deed would be in some administrative department, so the person actually carrying out the deed wasn’t ‘in charge.’ Then, after the fall of Hitler, Eichmann was put on trial. So, I was really interested in looking at: how is evil put on trial after it’s lost? Even with what was happening in America in 2020—a lot of permanent people were endorsing this guy who was going to fall… now he might try to get up again, so I think everyone needs to be prepared for that. Like, what happens then? Even with the #MeToo movement, it’s very often that the sins are pinned on that one person, who is then sent floating off on a flaming raft like, ‘Alright, we’ve dealt with it now!’ No, no you haven’t. What about all the other things? What about the entire system that’s rotten to the core? These bigger problems are bigger than just one person.”
To Henderson, that realization was paramount—it grew into the central theme of the record. “I think we can change,” she said. “There are a lot of people who might’ve voted for these things, but I don’t think that makes them bad. Maybe they can change, you know? So, it’s a hopeful message—it’s hopeful that we’re not doomed. Now, we can begin to see the patterns of everything happening around us. Something like COVID-19 has knocked everything to the ground, so we have the space now; we really need to be active in what’s going to be built in its place. Right now, instead, big power is building all these nasty things in place of what came before.”
To that end, working on Change throughout the pandemic became a pivotal guiding light—now, getting to share it, she hopes others can connect with that magical power. “There was actually a time before this process that I was considering quitting music,” she revealed. “But when 2020 came, music was all I had and it saved me, somehow. It wasn’t even specifically the pandemic, it was everything—everything had just become sand. So, the album was nice… it came from a place of necessity. It wasn’t like I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna write songs about these exact topics,’ it was more so that I just didn’t know what to do, so I made these songs. Now, I’m sharing that journey, so I hope I can pass it on. Maybe things can start to change, who knows? It’s just important to do something. I don’t really know how else to resist what’s going on.”
Ultimately, Change hits the sweet spot for resistance art. Yes, it certainly rejects a broken status quo that’s causing untold horror around the world, but perhaps more importantly, it radically embraces a profound quality of humanness. Giving reverence to everything from the importance of love to an individual’s rights to the beauty of birds singing in the spring, the album is an invaluable source of light in less-than-bright times.
Anika’s new album Change is out now—watch the music video for the title track “Change” below: