Anxiety begins and ends with cliché. Grandiose opener “Play by Play”, after washes of synthesizer, kicks off with Arthur Ashin doing a dynamo Prince impression: “I said, baby!” he cries, falsetto in full effect. The melancholy “World War” ties the album up with Ashin lamenting, “Not gonna be, no way / No way you’re gonna be my baby.” Of all the possible words an artist doing R&B—experimental or otherwise—could lean on, “baby” is definitely the default choice. It’s a tired-if-true term of affection, and its prime placement in pop music’s lexicon has ensured that even the most daring of artists will find a way to use it. Ashin, the driving force behind the Autre Ne Veut name, is now only on his second LP and, he can be pardoned for devolving to such basic word choice.
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