Age of Anxiety Benevolently Abducts the Willing
Hannah Rodgers, operating under the stage name Pixx, has released her debut album, Age of Anxiety. The title is apt for the work or perhaps just seems so because it influences the reading of a first listen. The album opens with the bombastic “I Bow Down,” which includes a synthesized instrument sounding not unlike a theremin, suggesting a science fiction trope of abduction by extra-terrestrials or some other unknown presence. The title, like the work, plays with an ever-present paranoia and wraps it in a pretty electropop package, declaring, perhaps in reciprocity for the listener’s intimate act of digesting Rodgers’s creations, “I salute your kindness; I bow down to your goodwill.”
Perhaps this reading of these statements is a bit self-important; we as listeners should certainly be receptive of works like Age of Anxiety, as the artist expresses the sentiment, “I don’t want to feel the need / to grip tight to everything I see…and still I give it all away.” The album as a whole evokes abduction into something otherworldly, but it must be considered that it is in fact possible that both artist and listener are willing accomplices in this removal from comfort.
The widely present synthesizers that fit Age of Anxiety squarely in the electropop/experimental pop camp further bolster the feeling that we are about to be lifted from the minutia of earthly life and beamed up to something — and perhaps someone — wholly foreign and yet oddly familiar. The keening and evocative sounds suggest a sci-fi film and the building, climactic textures of intergalactic battles and long journeys evident in “A Big Cloud to Float Upon.” The repetitive and eliding refrains somewhat lose semantic meaning and “float,” themselves, between the listener and their genesis.
In “Telescreen,” this aesthetic continues, as Rodgers asks, “Is it just me?” This is certainly a common query of the anxious, and of the chosen. Sustained notes in this track are drawn out atmospherically, like taffy or like the last rays before a sunset. Rhythm and blues motifs meld with the sparkling indie pop in “Romance,” in which feminine and masculine call-and-response creates a dichotomous texture. Style waxes consumable in “Waterslides,” which sounds as if it could be sampled in the next ubiquitous summer television ad, with surf-y percussion and staccato lyrics over its bright and more comestible base.
A favorite on the album is “Everything is Weird in America,” which may, based on the title, be assumed to pay homage to West Side Story. It does not; instead it echoes the aesthetic choices of pop artists like Lily Allen. Similarly, the refrain of “The Girls” appears to give voice to those worried about fitting in, or perhaps with a desire to garner attention from a certain individual. Whoever it speaks to, a proximal track, “Your Delight,” acknowledges a distant person’s attention, “You say I am your delight,” and ends like one is stepping into Oz, into technicolor.
The colorful imagery continues in “Mood Ring Eyes,” paralleling other groups such as London Grammar and suggesting the supernatural. A reverberating recitative evokes falling asleep or being anesthetized. The question is, are we going under or waking up?