It’s happening more often these days. I hear a really interesting and catchy tune, look it up, and find that its creator is under 21. I blink a little every time, dumbstruck that something so complex could emerge from a mind addled by hormones and the fog of early adulthood. It isn’t something that was terribly common in years past.
A number of explanations present themselves. Firstly, the proliferation of home studios makes it far more likely that any young talent will have the chance to get taken under some producer’s wing, the better to flesh out their songs and help the artist advance to their next stage of growth. Add to that the prevalence of incubators like School of Rock or Girls Rock Camp, and many of the old roadblocks get shoved to the side.
However, this alone doesn’t explain someone like Anna Robyn Thomas:
Starting out playful, the tune gathers a creeping menace as it builds, leaving one at last with the sensation on having been taken on a very dark trip indeed. How does this spring so fully from the mind of a 19-year-old?
Consider that all creative works are built upon the bones of those who came before. This is not to take away from the artist. No Beatles without Elvis, etc. But in 2015, we have several decades’ worth of canon laid down by the likes of Tori Amos, Aimee Mann and Kate Bush, plus more recent broken-piano luminaries like Regina Spektor and Ben Folds. In this light, a new artist like Thomas is not only possible, but probable. As R.E.M. built on the Byrds & Patti Smith, so too does Thomas add her own combination of innocence and observational acumen to the annals of quirk-pop.
Much like Little Albert, the artist is shaped by what she has seen and heard. In the modern age, that can encompass a dizzying spectrum, and with all these elements mixing like nucleotides in the primordial soup of the internet, we can look forward with fascination to what new combinations will present themselves in years to come. If Thomas is any indication, we will not be disappointed.