Autre Ne Veut's self-titled debut and the Body EP were indistinct and luminous, more about the feelings Arthur Ashin channeled than easily pinned-down songs. On Anxiety, Ashin removes his music from its lo-fi trappings and, as the similarly minded How to Dress Well did on Total Loss, uses this newfound polish in even more expressive ways. Reuniting with Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin -- who had Ashin contribute vocals to their album Channel Pressure -- and bringing in avant-pop sisters Jessica and Cristina Jo Zambri among other collaborators, Ashin gives Anxiety a sound that's slick but also slightly askew. The album is full of lush synths, stark beats, and rich vocals, all of which are on display on tracks like the glitchy but hopeful "Promises." This gloss nods more clearly to classic and contemporary pop and R&B than any of Autre Ne Veut's previous music, but unlike some indie artists who try to incorporate these elements into their work, it never feels superficial or ironic on Anxiety. Ashin's genuine love for these genres' roots and where they're at in the 2010s comes through at every turn, but most importantly, in his hands these sounds seem natural, and above all, personal. While "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" isn't a remake of the Whitney Houston classic, there's a kinship in how completely Ashin throws himself into his vocals. Thanks to Anxiety's higher fidelity, it's easier to hear what he's is singing about, and while it's a more polished set of songs, it's also a more vulnerable one. The album's titular fear is often separation anxiety, and Ashin finds plenty of ways to give voice to his romantic doubts. On the expansive opener "Play By Play," he searches for reassurance, repeating "don't ever leave me alone"; on "Counting," he pleads, "everything you say is breaking up" as a saxophone wail underscores that things are being torn asunder. Later, the choppy, creeping dread of "Warning" serves as a potent reminder of why this album has the name it does. Even on the album's most overtly sexy tracks, like "Ego Free Sex Free," there's an undercurrent of doubt and a willingness to give whatever it takes to make things work that remains unique. Aside from the rare occasions when his slick surroundings make Ashin's voice sound particularly ragged, Anxiety is a satisfying study in paradoxes: Moving toward more mainstream sounds makes this album some of Autre Ne Veut's most distinct and confident music yet.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares