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ANOHNI and the Johnsons Channel Sorrow, Beauty, and Anger on My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross

The British singer returns with an album that honours, grieves, and looks towards the future of queer liberation.  

by Fraser Hamilton

“You are determined to take me down,” ANOHNI seethes on “Go Ahead,” an angry, minute-and-a-half admonishment of a bigot. “You are an addict.”  It’s a rare moment of something close to rage on her album My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross, a meditative collection of music that focuses on loss and healing during a time where transphobia and hatred towards queer people has become more prevalent than ever.  

It’s been seven years since ANOHNI’s (credited here as ANOHNI and the Johnsons, a reference to the singer’s old band) last album HOPELESSNESS, a beautifully loud protest record that covered global warming, war and many of earth’s other plagues. MBWABFYTC is a more contemplative and quiet affair, replacing the last album’s blaring urgency with isolated vocals and a smoother, jazzier feel. There’s nothing quite like ANOHNI’s soulful voice, and it’s on display here more than ever as she both grieves and honours lost friends.  

MBWABFYTC’s cover features a portrait of LGBTQ+ liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson, and reverence towards her life and work is found throughout the album. One of the song highlights is “Can’t,” which perfectly encapsulates its themes by starting quiet before exploding with drums, guitar and saxophone as ANOHNI refuses to accept that a companion has passed away. “You’re gone, I won’t have it,” she yells. “I don’t want you to be dead.” Despite its sad lyrics, the song sounds more loving than depressing. It’s a sweeping celebration of a life, and several lives throughout history.