Whenever a fairly well known, and well respected, band or vocalist announces their intent to create a side project, certain thoughts pop into fans’ heads. Many assume that the “side project” is simply a collection of scrapped material under a new moniker, serving as a mere graveyard for unwanted songs.
This exact thought haunted many when Stephen Christian (lead singer of the pop-rock outfit, Anberlin) announced that both his projects, Anberlin and Anchor & Braille, were releasing new material within a close proximity, and some fans questioned the overall quality of the subsequent music. Their fears that new Anchor & Braille alongside new Anberlin simply meant a mellow collection of b – sides from the latter’s project were only strengthened when Christian also let loose that the forthcoming Anberlin record would be their “heaviest to date.” For those seriously losing sleep over the perceived dilemma, rest assured that Anchor and Braille serves more as an alter ego for Anberlin, rather than an island of misfit tunes.
Although Christian’s last outing under the moniker, 2008’s Felt, released to generally favorable critical reception, fans relented the fact that they could not give the album a complete listen without fear of nodding off. It was a very passive record, to say the least. However, if Felt was the sleepy time tea in the Anchor & Braille repertoire, then their follow up is the Echinacea wellness, meant to be slowly absorbed and meditated upon throughout the duration of a serene afternoon. The album’s title, The Quiet Life, sums up the experience perfectly; The songs weave and flow effortlessly, creating an almost healing, or therapeutic listening experience meant to both relax the body and soul, while invoking heavy contemplation from the mind.
There is no better example of this then “If Not Now, When,” where Christian gently cooes the title lyric while an arrangement of piano, strings, light percussion and acoustic guitar supplementing his quiet vocals. Much of the album follows this similar pattern, with a drastically different vocal delivery than fans of Anberlin may be used to. Lyrics typically belted out in urgency, are transformed into slow, quivering falsettos, giving the utmost care and focus to each and every word. Only “Kodachrome,” the direct successor to “If Not Now, When,” threatens to break this wall of gentle passivity with its slowed brewed energy seemingly building to lash out into chaotic bridge. Instead, the song merely builds to a satisfyingly upbeat conclusion that never quite boils over into territory that might otherwise disrupt the album’s natural flow. Many songs follow a similar formula of mid-to-up-tempo beats with subdued vocals and, while it flows together at parts, it never manages to sound repetitive or predictable.
With The Quiet Life, Anchor & Braille have managed to create an album that is both innovative and experimental without reeking of the typical sophomore slump innovation and experimentation. Elements of his previous effort are still felt, but they are tucked away under layers of electronic ambience. Perhaps it’s the replacement of Aaron Marsh’s production style with that of Aaron Sprinkle’s, but the whole album comes off as more refined and redefined. Instead of sounding like a Copeland record that happens to showcase Stephen Christian’s vocals, The Quiet Life features a more definitive sound that pairs perfectly with Christians distinctly unique voice. From the simple opening electric snare drum in “Goes Without Saying” to the final, finely plucked bells at the end of “Before I start Dreaming,” this album will charm and delight listeners looking to spend a peaceful afternoon or evening basking in the bliss of beautifully crafted melodies.
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To purchase The Quiet Life head over to Itunes, Amazon, or Anchor & Braille’s official website