Experience Jennifer Pague’s Ethereal Transformation on Anna Ohio
Vita and the Woolf has always been a dynamic act. Jennifer Pague’s voice is undeniably dynamic and unique. Some may call it an acquired taste, but it’s what made songs like “Mary” off Tunnels so explosive.
This time around Pague seem to poke fun at her previous mindset: “Confetti” is an interesting lyrical counterpart to the aforementioned “Mary.” It’s a unique place to begin an album, but it’s not unwelcome. Anna Ohio is a much different beast than its predecessor.
This sophomore LP follows Pague through literal time and space, serving as a time capsule of two years during which she relocated from Philadelphia to LA. It represents a personal deconstruction of sorts—whether by sense of dissociation or by struggle to survive in a tense age for artists of all sorts.
Anna Ohio is warm, lush, and full. Where Tunnels relied more on a piano-rock and arena-rock base, Pague seems comfortable with retro-infused synth pop this time around. Certainly, this is not to the album’s deficit. Instead, Pague seems to have loosened some of the confident fortitude of Tunnels for a more humble and uncertain view on life. It feels like a natural progression in songwriting nonetheless, albeit one expedited by life circumstances.
“Home” is vibrant, with a Sia-esque chorus and a hearty synth pulse. “Kentucky” is minimalist and airy. “Operator” is dreamy and rhythmically tight. “Mess Up” is radio-friendly, perhaps even comparable to more recent Taylor Swift albums—again, the chorus is particularly huge.
“Machine” is one of the most surprising tracks and deserves special attention. It’s fast paced. The drums are fascinating. The synth leads are glossy. Everything is beautifully balanced here, cementing this as a highlight track on the record.
“Auntie Anne’s Waitress” thrives off excellent production nuances and a general lo-fi feel. It has a slight sense of muzak influence; it’s fitting given the song’s theme.
“Paris” brings the album to a close. It strangely feels like what you’d expect if Mew had a female vocalist—it’s surprisingly technical and layered luxuriously. However, the song is a quick burner, fading out with a bed of strings. It’s an interesting creative choice, and it’s definitely one of the shorter closing tracks I’ve seen recently.
It’s no contest that Anna Ohio easily surpasses Tunnels. It’s poppier yet more experimental all the same. The songs are more consistently catchy. The production is captivating. The result is a flourishing emotional landscape that consists of rainy day ballads and clubbing-with-the-crew bangers. Pague quickly finds herself on the same sonic playing field as many modern pop icons, but she does so without rejecting her independent edge. This may be a pop album, but it’s lacking in neither grit nor wit.
For fans of: Sia, Lorde, Mew, Florence and the Machine, Taylor Swift