Reflection of Youth taps into the existential anxiety of bucking against conformity while struggling to find a path forward. Here Londoner Anna Lena Bruland looks back on her past, but rather than distilling insight, she’s left mired in heartache and uncertainty. A work of spectacular bleakness, the record documents a twisted emotional journey littered with downbeat pop and dissonant sounds.
As tracks like ‘Wise Man’ make clear, this Norwegian born singer-songwriter sits on the same anguished creative peg as artists like Sharon Van Etten and PJ Harvey. That said, her typical rock leanings also indulge in light touches of audiophilic tendency. Hard riffs and aching vocals are treated with a dark sonic alchemy, subtly manipulated, processed and warped as they contort within their ambient surrounds.
Smudged in darkness, the aforementioned ‘Wise Man’ leaks with longing while the brooding orchestration of ‘10,000 Voices’ oscillates between frigid isolation and sweeping desolation. Alongside the churning distortion and choppy rhythms of ‘I Wanna Dance’, ‘Survived’ offers a flair of defiance.
Yet the near conversational ‘Christine’ eclipses them all with a searing pathos carried within the sickly sweetness of Anna's unnervingly multitracked vocals. The romantic derangement of ‘Reflection of Youth’ closes the record with subdued vocals and languid fretwork. Drowning in rejection, Bruland unleashes a torrent of pain, devotion and resignation. Reflection of Youth is an emotional assault to be sure but it also bares a vulnerability which begs connection.