Erin Anne Rocks, Rolls, Rages, and Reflects on Debut Album

Erin Anne Rocks, Rolls, Rages, and Reflects on Debut Album

When we heard about Erin Anne a few months ago, we were all in, right away. She absolutely dominates, shredding on guitar like she was born strumming, but she’s also honed this marvelous ability to pair fuzzy reflection with raging rock romps. After hearing just three singles back in May, we dreamed about the day we’d get a full album from Erin.

A few weeks ago, that day came when Erin Anne officially dropped her debut full-length, Tough Love, a searing collection straddling the line between tender and turmoil.

Here’s what Erin had to tell us about Tough Love:

I started recording the demos in my grad dorm at UCLA in February 2018. I had just moved to the city from Portland, Maine, and I felt like I was drowning in sunlight and stagnating creatively. ‘Bitter Winter’ was the first song I wrote and recorded, followed by ‘Tough Love’ only a couple of days later. The rest of the demos followed into June 2018, at which point I was just going to release them as they were, as a ‘fun thing’ that was ‘just for me.’ In retrospect, this was definitely my own preemptive attempt at shielding myself from rejection.

In Maine, I’d done well enough for myself to play some pretty cool shows, but once I lived in Los Angeles, for some queer and/or female reason, I was really scared to, you know, just do it. I had almost entirely convinced myself that I was content with my PhD studies and bedroom tracking — until I met Lindsey. She introduced me to Alex, who convinced me to re-track the record with him in his studio space with live drums and heightened production. Alex and Lindsey saw potential in the songs that I’d been too afraid to pursue. With their help, the songs took on massively new life at levels I’d never been able to capture with my own limited resources.

In that year between June 2018 and now, I went through a significant breakup, made major career steps, moved out of the dorm and into an apartment, and let go of lots of my old self-protective penchants for isolation. {The album’s] name originally alluded only to the title track —which is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek jab at sexist double standards in the workplace — but during the re-tracking process, it emerged as the record’s central mantra. I realized the song was as much about other people as it was about the self-critical voices in my own head. I’d never be that mean to anybody else. The record became a scrapbook of transitional moments like this one.

Tough Love is about standing in the doorway between presents you’ve grown out of and futures you’re afraid you’re too small for, and using music as the catalyst to make those steps into the unknown. I’ve come to be very proud of it.

An effort encouraged by supportive friends in the face of self-doubt, Tough Love tells the stories inside Erin’s head and heart. Each track is a morsel of feeling set against roaring soundscapes, again exemplifying just how expertly Erin can pair warring elements like no one else can. Tough Love opens with “Sleep For Dinner,” a lullaby that allows Erin’s quivering voice to deliver a fleeting confession over gentle strums leading into “Bedroom Track (Carrie),” a song so heavy with emotion from the get-go that it pummels through as fast as it can to get to the other side. Weighed down by a glittering, excruciating instrumental intro, it merges seamlessly into an arrangement of buzzing synths and frantic rhythms all creeping before rushing forward, a masterpiece of a song. Following that gut-punch is the quirk and chaos of fast-paced “Bitter Winter” then the searing lo-fi treatment of the album’s title track and “Gaslighter,” a sonic tug-of-war in which Erin grapples rapidly between zippy comedowns and wild crescendos.

The second half of Tough Love finds “Wrong Stuff,” a shoegaze-y effort Erin’s voice is clouded in, flanked on all sides by waterfall melodies and swollen synth swells. There’s a line in here — “We’ve spent our lives speaking in exquisite corpses, choking on the subtext” — that further reminds listeners that Erin is a wordsmith of the highest degree. On “Life Soup,” things get punk-y and pop-y again with a rapid-fire garage-rock romp in which Erin’s technical skill is at its best and she delivers a whirring, high-energy track. “Seventeen” is a humble highlight of Tough Love, an emotive contemplation on being seventeen and broken and hurting. It’s obvious that this is a hard one to have written, because it’s hard to hear, but it pumps along in a really lovely arrangement. Another of the album’s most remarkable efforts is “Plasticized,” devoid of Erin’s signature in-your-face style this time in favor of a stripped-back stunner — its entire form is painful pangs of poetry, three pretty minutes of Erin’s most vulnerable songwriting yet. The way she strings words together is akin to magic — it’s utterly unexpected and almost scary sometimes. Every lyric was hand-crafted with soul-deep, aching-heart thought, and it’s this care that separates Erin from anybody else doing what she’s doing today. Tough Love ends with “Sleep For Dinner (Reprise),” a return to the fluttering, soporific quality of the album’s beginning.

A crucial mix of soft balladry and charged rock anthems, Tough Love is a feat of genius from an artist whose passion is being passed on to her listeners — we are all in on Erin. A god on guitar, a magician of words, a musician of unending skill, she’s the kind of artist we’re in awe of. On Tough Love, Erin Anne wades through tender turmoil fully aware of her own inner shortcomings but strong enough to drown them. This world is no match for her. She’ll take it down herself.

Listen to Tough Love below and connect with Erin Anne on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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