On his opulent debut album Giver Taker, Anjimile’s most powerful and enchanting instrument is his voice. The project—which serves as a testament to the different stages of healing—is a sparse nine-track undertaking that reveals just how resilient our protagonist truly is. Anjimile’s story is an uncommon one, but an uplifting one nonetheless: A trans person—in the midst of battling his own demons—excavates the most troubling parts of his past and ultimately seeks out catharsis.
Perhaps one of the most satisfying parts of his journey has been the acclaim in national outlets: Anjimile was named an artist to watch by NPR, landed on on Rolling Stone’s radar and was interviewed by The Boston Globe. His artistry reaffirms that the recent praise is more than deserved. The angelic nature of Giver Taker is simply mesmerizing.
Opening track “Your Tree” lures listeners in with its softness. Its orchestral dramatics are almost ethereal and display Anjimile’s talent for highly anticipated lyrical buildups. The sumptuous, introductory chords on “Baby No More” give way to catchy melodies and well-enunciated chants that insist heartbreak is both the root of his pain as well as a sought-after panacea. Self-awareness reigns supreme on the vulnerable “In Your Eyes,” where he acknowledges the fact that he can’t appease everyone’s expectations—and won’t ever dare to try.
“Not Another World” marks the halfway point on Giver Taker, and while the tracks seamlessly feed into each other, they become a little difficult to differentiate. Instead of nine individual songs, the album feels more like a continuous narration (though it is unclear if that is Anjimile’s intent). He’s at his boldest on “Maker,” in which he unapologetically takes up space he knows wasn’t originally designed for him: “I’m not just a boy / I’m a man / I’m not just a man / I’m a god / I’m a maker / I’m your maker.”
“Ndimakukonda” is the album’s shortest track at a minute and 40 seconds, but it’s the best example of Anjimile’s take on classic love balladry. The album’s title track is theatrical and easily the most dramatic moment on Giver Taker, as haunting piano keys and sauntering rhythms drive home the song’s emotional uneasiness. The very last song on the project, “To Meet You There,” ends on a solemn but inquisitive note about the artist’s own mortality: “After death / After life / I was up / Half the night / Hurricane / Never came / Not for me / Not again.”
Giver Taker is captivating in its detailed storytelling, luscious harmonies and admirable vulnerability. Anjimile’s devotion to his craft is both inspiring and harrowing, which we hear in the highs and lows of this consummate project. His trials and tribulations have only fueled his creative vision. Navigating trauma is innately difficult, but on Giver Taker, we hear how it sounds when it’s done with patience, care and humility. Anjimile touts his hard-won strength throughout the record. A debut this scintillating sets the bar quite high for the 27-year-old songwriter, but, as we quickly learned—he is already up for the challenge.
Candace McDuffie is a culture writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Rolling Stone, MTV, NBC News, and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow her on Instagram @candace.mcduffie.