“Nothing dies” is the mantra at the climax of ‘Your Tree’, the opening track on this debut album from Anjimile, and with it, the record’s cast is set. Giver Taker is an examination of life, a tale of birth and rebirth, self-discovery and survival.
Anjimile Chithambo, the Boston-based singer-songwriter, wrote this album while in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, but also during a period when they were beginning to live more fully as a nonbinary trans person; every moment on Giver Taker breathes with both the pain and wonder that those experiences involve. The title itself embodies this duality, as does the title track, as nervous, fluttering piano gives way to the warm, rich watercolour wash of Gabe Goodman’s production with great ease.
‘Maker’ reads like a conversation between Anjimile’s identity and their parents’ strong religious beliefs (“Why don’t you do what you’re told”), whereas ‘Baby No More’ finds Anjimile wrestling with their own internal reckoning (“Am I dead… Am I sick in the head… Am I wrong… I can’t be a baby no more”). The existential anguish of these tracks is mirrored by the confidence and contentment of ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Not Another Word’, the latter capturing the beauty of being alive. With life experiences such as Anjimile’s, this is no self-help seminar paying lip service to the power of positivity; there is legitimate, raw love for life on this record and it is infectious.
It is at times impossible to ignore the overbearing similarities to early Sufjan Stevens on Giver Taker, from the pastoral, woody instrumentation and breathy vocals right down to the mystical, quasi-religious allusions, but as Roger Ebert said about the movies, at its finest art exists as a machine for generating empathy. In that regard, this album is a finely engineered tool.
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