Residing in London, UK, Anna Lena Bruland composes delicately bold lo-fi-inspired alternative rock under the alias EERA. Having released an eponymous EP in 2016, she has reemerged with the elegantly raw Reflection of Youth. Whereas EERA echoed the likes of Lana Del Ray with her cautiously sensible melodic approach, Reflection of Youth explores newfound territory, leaping into the world of punchy guitar lines, barren drum grooves, and raucous yet controlled instrumentation.

Working alongside producer Nick Rayner, Reflection of Youth was predominantly recorded on a working dairy farm in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, aesthetically reflecting the album’s isolated, escapist nature. Bruland stated that the goal of the album was to give her listeners an “incredibly honest record,” one that illustrates who she is as an artist. Overcoming one’s problems is a motif on the album, and furthermore facing those problems head on— in essence, Reflection of Youth paints a picture of an individual who feels both trapped and confined by the ubiquitous expectations of the society which surrounds her, ultimately causing her to reevaluate the path of which she is destined to take.

The opening track, ‘Living’, embodies the nature of the record both sonically and tonally. It kicks off with a clearly Buckley inspired chord progression, delivered by a delicately saturated, tube-driven electric guitar. Before long, it is accompanied by a haunting vocal melody effected ever-so-slightly with tremolo, which, although subtle, demonstrates EERA’s ability to convey her strength through vulnerability. The track begins softly and sincerely, as if Bruland is opening her diary to gently make sense of her thoughts. As the track progresses, however, the mood shifts to something darker, conveyed by the heightened intensity of the instrumentation. By the second chorus, what started as a mere journal entry spirals into an emotionally tumultuous, violent rant. It sounds like being involuntarily placed in a world where everything is quickly changing, shifting at an uncomfortable rate, but knowing the only option is to remain calm and smile through the pain. The relatively calm presence of Bruland’s vocals combined with the thunderous sonic landscape resting beneath illustrates a composed outer presence, perhaps in order to pretend that everything is okay, yet internally wrestling with every thought, image, or idea that enters one’s mind. The Greenwood-esque guitar strikes that can be heard toward the end of the track heighten the obstreperous disposition of the song’s final form.

A few tracks later, ‘Christine’ illustrates EERA’s more subdued, tame side. Perhaps the most lo-fi track on the record, it sounds as if it were recorded in the bedroom of her childhood home, which is appropriate given that the song is an ode to her sister. The understated harmonies in conjunction with the mid-heavy production allows EERA to create a highly intimate and personal connection with her listeners. The glitchy vocal loops and splices which creep in toward the end add ambience and experimentation to an otherwise bare-bones track.

Placed as track 5 out of 10, it is appropriate that ‘Survived’ is located at the heart of the album. As powerful as it is honest, the tune embodies many of the core elements of the record— namely, tackling obstacles directly and coming out victorious, more competent, and ready for what’s next. The track sounds a bit more blatantly audacious than its peers, with its hook consisting of Bruland confidently boasting “I survived.”

Reflection of Youth ends just as powerfully as it begins. The title track introduces itself with a hypnotic, lullaby-esque chord progression, soon accompanied by a shiver-inducing falsetto drone. Delivered by Bruland, she croons “Please make love to me/ I need some weight on me.” The nature of the song is sensual yet distant, almost as if Bruland is begging a once lost lover to overlook past mistakes and experience intimacy with her one last time. Considering Reflection of Youth is an album which consistently and deliberately tackles personal experiences, it is appropriate for its closing to take on what is regarded as the most intimate affair of all: sex.

Reflection of Youth is the type of album which is best experienced during a time of conflict. It is a highly revealing work of art, and as such has the ability to help one make sense of their individuality and place in the world. Although sonically ominous, Relfection of Youth possesses a sophisticated breed of optimism which embodies itself through realism.