Saturday, May 21, 2016

Song of the Day #307 - Anohni - 4 Degrees

And all those rhinos and those big mammals/I wanna see them lying, crying in the fields

This is an album I've been pretty obsessed with lately, a collaboration between Oneohtrix Point Never, Hudson Mohawke, and Anohni, lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons. It's not so much a "chocolate and peanut butter" thing as it is a "several robots combine into a super-robot" thing. HudMo's signature giant perfectly fills out OPN's aggressive complexity, making something that is both hugely staggered and relentlessly evolving...

If that sounds a little much, Anohni's vocals ground it into something accessibly musical and emotionally driven. It's sorta similar to how I was describing the vocals in Have a Nice Day!. It's pretty far from the amateurish aspect, sure - her vocals are stunningly powerful across huge ranges of tone and dynamic. But it still retains the quality of being an "avenue" into the song, a point of contact where, even if you could never fully capture the hugeness of HudMo horns or the rhythms of OPN drums, you probably can't help singing along with the anthemic chorus. It's really satisfying.

The lyrics, too, have a complex sort of satisfaction to them, an almost perverse one. "4 Degrees" is an environmental activist song calling attention to the devastating potential of global warming - a report indicated that the Earth's temperature will rise by four degrees at current rates of pollution. Now, global warming isn't really the cutting-edge environmental topic it once was. It's been almost 10 years since An Inconvenient Truth. People seem to be somewhat "settled into it" now... all sane people understand the reality of it, all empathetic people strive to do something about it, and even the existence of the rest - the ignorant or uncaring - has settled into a fact of life. But... isn't that actually pretty fucked up? The idea that we've resigned ourselves to the idea that many people, sometimes powerful people, the very people who have control over relevant policy, are pretty much "fine" with the heating of the Earth is occasionally, like when listening to this song, extremely disturbing on a gut level.

Anohni writes from the perspective of one of these hypothetical people. The repeated "Let's go, let's go, it's only four degrees" is probably actually pretty close to their actual thought process: it isn't such a big deal, such a small number", etc. But then, of course, the graphic depictions of the effects of those four degrees are probably not at all what would occur to them. And it's sorta like... what we're hearing is a sort of sarcastic parody of the ramifications of their mindset, and a sort of like... this is what they'd have to be thinking, for them to do what they do, but you know they actually aren't. And if we are actually doomed, if the planet will just keep heating up, and idk man I think that might be what happens, this is the reality they'll have to face. And thus the song has the final message of maybe "hahahaha fuck you", which is actually really satisfying.

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