Karin Ann’s “i yearn for agony” is the Glittering-Yet-Angst-Filled Song 2020 Deserves
What can't she do!?
What can't she do!?
Text: Alex Blynn
Karin Ann is truly a singer-songwriter of her time; a Slovakia-based teenager living through the quarantine year of 2020, her music is surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) adult, with a dark mode d'être that most artists achieve after many years, but one Ann seems to have mastered at just 18.
Ann was originally more of an athlete in her younger days, having participated in figure skating, gymnastics and dance. But at 14, she received a ukulele as a gift for Christmas, and her passion for music erupted; having an instrument in her hands helped Ann translate the poetry she had been writing for years into song lyrics. She decided to attend art school in her home country to continue working as a creative. But while there, “my hand got injured. I couldn't do the work. My professors hated me. I had to leave. It was a very bad time for me,” Ann tells V in her first U.S. interview. “And that pushed me into music more than anything. Before my injury, I was actually more of a visual artist, like drawing and painting. But after my injury I was just frustrated all the time. Making music really helped me get through that dark time. And then I realized, like, wait, I’m actually good at this and I really like it. So I’ve been working on it for a couple years now!”
After releasing the excellent “3AM” single and music video earlier this year, Ann is back with a new song and video for “i yearn for agony.” Hauntingly catchy with slick drum beats and brooding synths, Ann’s clear vocals and keen audio-distortions call to mind her spooky-pop contemporaries like Billie Eilish and Kim Petras. “agony”’s lyrics reference mental health, past relationships, self-isolation, and defense mechanisms, among many other things, and shows the kind of mature songwriting Ann is capable of. Mixed and mastered by famed producer and Yungblud-collaborator Matt Schwartz, “i yearn for agony” is the glittering-yet-angst-filled song 2020 deserves.
“I was inspired to write ‘agony’ after I saw Yungblud in concert, actually,” Ann recalls to V. “He was playing in Prague, which is rare, so me and my friend decided to go. He wasn’t that big yet, but his energy was so awesome and it felt like he was singing about things no one else in the music industry was talking about in Europe.” She pauses. “And now the guy who helped produce ‘Polygraph Eyes” is working with me, which is mind-blowing. Absolutely mind-blowing.”
The music video, directed and styled by Karin Ann herself, is highly influenced by players like Tim Burton and stories like Alice in Wonderland. We are greeted by Ann looking like a young Helena Bonham-Carter in a white vintage shift dress, with a brightly lit carousel behind her which spins ceaselessly yet bears no patrons. We’re thrown into a bunker with Ann, where her brightly striped outfit is the only color against the dark and uneasy backdrop. Ann then slinks around a large gloomy hallway, exhibiting the energy of a chic zombie with her freshly-permed fuschia hair. And as she proclaims herself a new queen of dark pop music, sitting atop an intricate wooden throne, Ann calls forth her snake dominions to protect her crown, literally.
“I wanted to be very literal with the presentation,” Ann tells V. “The set is actually inside a Slovak castle, which was then converted into an insane asylum years ago, and is now abandoned. We use some creepy circus music in the very beginning of the song, so I said let’s put a carousel in there. And since it’s about struggling with mental health, I wanted all the rooms to look like they’re close to falling apart, even though I’m wearing colorful outfits to hide that. And those are real snakes on me!”
Her impressive directing chops aside, Karin Ann is a strong new voice in music, one who deserves attention going into 2021. Now gearing up to release an as-yet-unnamed debut EP in the new year, the Eastern European ingenue’s obvious talent and penchant for thoughtful songwriting portend well, and if “i yearn for agony” is an indication of what’s to come, V can’t wait to see what Karin Ann does next!