The first time I heard Anna Shoemaker, I considered messaging her to ask if we’d dated the same person. After all, we both live in Brooklyn and I couldn’t believe how accurately she depicted the gut-punch feeling of dating someone unavailable. On her songs, she didn’t romanticize the feeling of getting your heart clubbed like a piñata, she just accurately described feelings of ecstasy and self-delusion surrounding such an arrangement. She got how deliciously intoxicating it can feel to have a crush; the more debilitating it is, the more you feel, and for Shoemaker, feeling was clearly everything.
“I’m obsessed with people feeling their feelings,” Shoemaker told NYLON in the summer of 2021. “I love to feel all my feelings. I just think it’s so important to experience how you're feeling and not swallow anything down, whether that’s pain or sadness or happiness.”
On her new EP, Hey Anna, Shoemaker unleashes her most expansive feelings yet: which not only include devotion, but anger, ecstasy, and resignation. She’s come a long way from her early 2018 single “Liquor Store,” where she writes about the exquisite pang of nostalgia around a place that was once significant — and Hey Anna is a departure from her 2021 album Everything Is Fine (I’m Only On Fire), which is largely about self-soothing amidst depression. Now, there’s starting to be a crack in the veneer of her shiny pop; darker feelings have set in like swirling cigarette smoke, and her music is all the better for it.
Across the five songs and 14 minutes of the project, Shoemaker shows up at someone’s house and acts weird; she gets caught in the same patterns; every corner store looks the same, the site of a betrayal; her bedroom becomes “a pretty place to break down,” her front porch a place where she’s screaming. Rights and wrongs and highs and lows coalesce and swirl. After all, “it’s all a show,” she sings on “666.”
The EP’s titular track “Hey Anna” is a Soundgarden-esque note-to-self sung largely in an upper register: “If I hold my breath I’d end up dead/ So I let you let me down instead/ This happens/ When you’re batshit” she sings. It’s growly and guttural, written in minor chords and invisible ink.
But where the record shines most is on its back half: “Holly,” “ADD” and “I Think I,” songs that have lyrics that will rattle around in my brain forever. It’s here that Shoemaker’s revelations turn to major keys, unrestrained propulsive tracks like the beating of a heart on the drug of a crush; a little faster, a little louder.
“Did you mean to put your cigarette out on my heart?” she sings on “Holly,” which is about “an on-again, off-again, self-proclaimed art bro who can only find his phone on the weekends – you know what and who I’m talking about. You can tell who your real friends are when they tell you to shut up about him,” states a press release. It’s at that point, when your friends are sick of talking about the same thing, that I turn to Shoemaker’s music.
“Did you mean to keep me out til 4 am just to leave me on the street with a drink in my hand?/ Thinking bout the ways we could do it again,” she continues on “Holly,” while on the angsty “ADHD,” she admits: “I could live in the palm of your hand.”
Shoemaker makes me feel okay about the romantic propulsions of a heart that wants to believe things will be different this time. And that no matter the outcome, she makes me feel okay for feeling so much of anything: the sheer joy of getting to feel so bad, the anger when you wish it was different, the resignation of realizing you can’t change someone. In the end, Shoemaker sings love songs, but not for the people they’re about. Instead, I think they’re for us.