Anna Straker, 19-year-old musician, vocalist and producer from London, has come to the fore with her Serious EP, which was released Tuesday, November 15 through Youthemic, “The Coolest publishing company in the UK”.
Anna began her career singing backing vocals on chart topping singles and albums by the likes of Rudimental, John Newman, Years & Years and Fono. Determined and ambitious, it wasn’t long before she began to fully immerse herself in her own music, leaving school at 17 and moving to London to pursue her solo career.
Writing and producing from her grandma’s attic in Acton, West London, Anna was given scope to develop her sound, leading to her successful debut single, and this EP’s opener, “Late Night Swimming” (May 6).
This then lead to this EP’s closer, “How We Are” (July 29) and its title track, “Serious” (October 19), being released as singles, too. See the latter’s music video uploaded on her YouTube channel at the bottom of this review.
Anyway, “Late Night Swimming” rings with distorted percussion before waves of commanding, strident synth stomp along with clapping drum and hands. The vocals have an airy quality to them, not so much soaring as slowly rising to the top. Her voice is briefly filtered to give it a beyond human sound. A fluttering of futuristic sounds are buried in the mix, creating a layered effect satisfying to spot out. A descending melody plays out, particularly prominent in the track’s closing moments.
Title track, “Serious”, sounds like, backdrop wise, the melding of late Eighties, early Nineties house and hip-hop. Then it veers off in a soothing tangent, transcending the familiar nostalgic sounds opening the track. The vocals are a tad more ballsy in this one, too. Again, there are filters on her voice, lending it, perhaps, a robotic quality. Almost violent stabs of synth sees the track out, sudden and abrupt.
“Desert Floor” has a certain graveness and immediacy. It’s futuristic, like high octane travels and battles far out in outer space. Quite an adept change in tempo sees the track expertly verge into other territory. The middle section sees the reprisal of the vocal filter, lending the vocals a sexy, bratty and sultry quality. She then achieves a similar, unbridled effect all on her own, so obviously the effect isn’t to mask a lack of range, or anything.
The end is nigh come “How We Are”, which’s moody, percussive and bassy. The vocals really dance over the track. Come the chorus, it has a real swing to it, one suited very much to the dancefloor. There’s a certain grandness to proceedings, something that might lend itself to being covered by someone of high profile. Maybe a career launcher for Anna, in a way.
Particular highlights are “Late Night Swimming” and “Desert Floor”. The former is a bossy effort, stomping down the street with supreme authority. The processed quality of the vocals suit the futuristic bent of the track, the debate of whether robotic, maybe even alien, is ultimately up for the listener to decide.
Then the latter futuristic is, again, the word. This is set against a real sense of drama, via the piano; and a real sense of authenticity, via the unprocessed vocals that still manage to hit those heights. The grit, bite, of the latter really rewarding, perhaps at a point whereby you’re beginning to assume, wrongly, that she can’t sing from the gut and can only evoke wispy clouds and not exploding volcanos.
Even with the other two, “Serious” and “How We Are”, there are at least sizeable aspects to appreciate. The former is a song in which you may initially feel overly familiar with its opening moments, but then it takes that transcendental tangent ever so satisfying. Then the latter has a grand feel at times, moments you can picture being captured by a superstar enamoured with it, desperate to make their own.
Anna Straker seems to have a predominantly electronic style. Though this isn’t soulless music of the pill popping variety, as her music has plenty of heart and feel. Judging by the experimental side of her material, it’s also evident she can pull off what she does with and without, regardless. Anna Straker’s Serious EP can be purchased, here.
Words by Andrew Watson