EERA, the project of the Berlin-based Norwegian singer, songwriter and guitarist Anna Lena Bruland, announces the release of her second album, Speak, on 3 December 2021. The follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 debut, Reflection Of Youth, is an album of contrasts and of confidence. She explains “Speak is a search for a balance in life, acknowledging myself, and being proud of who I am. To become braver and more confident, and stop questioning so much. Accept and move on instead. My debut was a little bit timid, like, am I doing this right? This album is more who I am.”
She also shares the record’s lead single, “Ladder”, a song about opportunity and about trying to make someone else see that they have a lot to be grateful for, which they may not realise themselves; pushing down the ladder signifying sabotaging oneself.
Whereas Reflection Of Youth took intriguing musical cues from the likes of PJ Harvey, Deerhoof and Elliott Smith, Speak is more aligned to Broadcast, My Bloody Valentine and Lush, adding synthesisers to create a euphotic and dynamic setting for Anna Lena’s vibrant vocals. There may be elements of shoegaze here but she is not looking down at her shoes, but directly into the eyes of the listener; all the better to communicate what she is saying.
EERA’s guest vocals on the recent Public Service Broadcasting, BBC 6 Music A-listed single “People, Let’s Dance” ft. EERA (listen here) (she also sings on "Gib Mir Das Licht"; both tracks are from their new album Bright Magic, out in September) showed how seamlessly she fitted into an electronic framework, but Speak’s adoption of synthesisers was more about texture than rhythm. “I wanted to create layers that blend into each other,” she explains. “I hope my songs will allow the listener to dive into another world, where you don’t know where you are anymore.”
The contrast between Speak’s clarity of vision and its shifting dream world of sound suits Anna Lena just fine. “I love opposites,” she says. “It’s not planned, it just happens naturally. Some artists write in colours, but for me, it’s more about texture: hard and soft, light and dark.” To hard/soft and light/dark, Speak adds contrasts of sharp corners and subtle angles, and a shimmering warmth to the dynamics that balances the steeliness of the synths. Emotionally, too, the album projects a vulnerability and sensitivity that balances the album’s core theme of self-reliance.
Anna Lena’s search journey began in Drobak, a small harbour town outside Norway’s capital of Oslo. Headstrong in her youth – she didn’t question the bravery of singing Nirvana’s “Rape Me” at a school event when she was just 13 – she felt at odds with her family’s more passive dynamic. Speak’s title track is inspired by her father, “wanting him to speak up about what is going on in his life and share his emotions. His dad taught him to ‘suck it up and move on’, which can result in pushing your true self further away without realising it.”
After EERA had toured with Ghostpoet and Mitski, Speak was partly recorded in London but the majority in Berlin, where Anna Lena moved to in 2019 after a few years of living in London. As on Reflection Of Youth, Speak was made by Anna Lena, producer Allister Kellaway and bandmate Ed Bernez, except for the drums on “Ladder” which are by Tobias Humble – also Anna Lena’s partner, and responsible for the album’s striking cover photo of Anna Lena, taken on Infra-red film, which turns green particles pink – a process developed by the US during WWI to improve aerial intelligence photography.
Anna Lena was particularly inspired by Richard Mosse’s photos of soldiers in camouflage gear, where Infra-red turns the surrounding green vegetation pink but reveals their outfits. “It’s another contrast,” she says. “Between hard and soft, between guys with guns and beautiful pink nature.” There is a contrast too between the notion of war, and Anna Lena using the process to create the album cover’s beautiful, softened image.
The contrast continues on the inside of Speak; between how we see ourselves, and how we see - and feel about - how others see us. This search for identity, acceptance and respect is established in the opening track, “Solid Ground”: “It’s about finding a person that finally accepts you for you. Knowing you don’t have to explain or defend your personality.”
From Norway’s Drobak to London to Berlin, between the stations of self-doubt and self-acceptance, EERA has travelled far to understand herself and forge a way forward. Speak is not the journey’s end, but a thrilling milestone along the way; come join her quest.
EERA - Speak - album artPre-order / pre-save HERE