Anna Coogan has been preparing for this moment her whole life, ever since she was a girl growing up in Boston, influenced by her classical opera training and her father’s protest albums by Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. After several efforts with her Pacific Northwest-based alt-country band north 19, a pair of well-received indie solo releases and a collaboration with producer JD Foster (2014’s Birth of the Stars), Coogan’s latest is a stylistic breakthrough. Anna Coogan will release The Lonely Cry of Space & Time on April 28.
The album, a virtual two-person effort which features Willie B (Brian Wilson) on drums and Moog bass, combines Coogan’s three-octave soprano vocals, electric guitar soundscapes and pointed social commentary into a fierce cohesive piece which combines the personal and the political, in a musical hybrid of rock, country, pop and classical opera into a unique whole.
Just as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Going On were steeped in the tumultuous ‘60s, Anna Coogan’s The Lonely Cry of Space & Time is inextricably linked to the flammable present. The more accessible songs, like the '60s Brill Building pop of “Sylvia,” a nod to poet Sylvia Plath, the new wave dance-pop of “Meteor” and the blues-country ballad “Follow Me” (co-written with JD Foster and Willie B) are intensely personal. Still, other tracks, such as “Collateral” (with its plea not to be typed or controlled by inflammatory words), “Burn for You” (an “apocalyptic lullaby” in which she describes “the brushfires of empire burn”) and “Wishing Well” (a pro-immigration plea which insists, “If they throw wide the gates, if they slam the doors/Keep on swimming until you find the shore”), all deal with how political issues affect the individual.