I'll like to give it a try to review an album. Let's see, how it goes.
I can't remember, if I learned about Anathema from this side, or this side learned about Anathema from me, but either way, I seem to remember having the 2012-album Weather Systems in NMC, and I know some people around here know about this band. But let's take a few line's of band-history:
Anathema is a british band from Liverpool, like The Beatles. The line-up consist of 3 brothers (singer, guitar and bass), a brother and a sister (drums and singer) and a keyboard-player. The band was founded in 1990 as a "Death-Metal"-band, but around 2001, they changed their sound to an alternative sound/Prog sound. I became aware of them around 2011, but instead of buying anything, I waited for a "new" album (Weather System). I really liked that album, and bought the one before that (We're Here Because We're Here from 2010) and also like that one. Since then, they've released 2 more albums, and The Optimist being the newest one, released a couple of weeks ago.
I've read, that The Optimist follows the concept of the band's 2001-album "A Fine Day To Exit", but I haven't heard that album before, and therefore I'll go along without mentioning that album again, and take the songs one by one:
32.63N 117.14W is an intro of sounds, of someone getting in to a car, and hearing himself (or at least Anathema) on the car-radio (sounds familiar? I thought of Detroit Rock City right away).
Leaving It Behind start with an electronic drum-sound, and then developes with guitar and singing, until the whole band enters. Like many of Anathema's songs, it get's more and more "noisy" (in a good way), meaning a lot of their songs start quiet and gets more and more heavy. And many of their songs have...how shall I put it....not that many notes. The riffs ARE in many ways the song, but the singer may sing a "different" melodi, and the lyrics are often repeated, but again, I don't mean it negative. For me this style is awesome, since I don't know other bands, sounding like this. I thought about, what bands I could compare them to, and Simple Minds and U2 came to my mind, but Anathema is much heavier (at times). Maybe Porcupine Tree? But they seem to have more notes to play with. Still, I wouldn't mind mentioning PT, Anathema and Dewin Townsend in the same sentence. This song ends very sudden and..
Endless Ways start with a nice piano-"riff", and Lee Douglass's very lovely voice. She is probably my favorite female singer right now. The brain behind this band is the guitarist Daniel Cavanagh, and imo he is a great "maker of music", meaning maybe there a songs, that a better out there, but you/I can hear/feel, that this man loves music, and loves writing music and riffs, both on piano and guitar and bass. Endless Ways is another one of those songs, that get's "heavier", and also concentrates on mostly the same riffs, maybe 3 of them. At times it sounds like (when they were great) U2 rocking' out. You can't call the first "song" a song, so up until now, both songs are as good/great as you/I could had expected, meaning as strong as songs from WS and WHBWH (Distant Satellites from 2014 was a bit of a disappointment). And again like most Anathema-songs it ends quiet.
The Optimist start again with a piano-riff, but this time, it's brother Vincent Cavanagh singing lead, while Lee Douglass's lovely voice is "in the back". Yet another song starting out quite and then getting heavier, but never the less, imo the songs doesn't sound the same. Yet again I get a bit of a U2-feel (October/War), and when the Cavanagh-brothers sing together, and it sounds awesome imo. Vincent really also is a great singer imo, and I believe I had him as one of my favorite singers in 2014. The "ending"-riff on this song is also awesome, and imo this is the best song so far.
San Francisco is an instrumental, and again, 3 riffs or so are the whole song. Without anyone singing a melodi, this track is kind of a throwaway. I have heard this album quite a few times, and I never really skip it, but eventually I probably will. Again there's some electronica in their sound, something they really haven't had before, maybe they started it on Distant Satellites.
Springfield starts with a guitar-riff, and a piano takes over on the same riff. Even though the drums are simple, I really like the drums on this song. Lee Douglass sings the melodi, and again the lyrics are...not simple, but ... well maybe, but not bad. "How did I get here...I don't belong here". Well, it makes me think, what she means, and I like that. Then the song gets heavy with the same riff, and end quiet, but in between Douglass screams beautifully. Not the best song so far, but still a good song. Now this is were I feared, the album wouldn't have anymore good songs, but luckily I feared wrong.
Ghost is not (surprise surprise) the same formula (riff - quiet - heavy -quiet). This one has a very nice melodi, and again Douglass's lovely, lovely voice. This song also contains violins, if anyone should be interested. Some might call this song boring, but not me. So far probably my second favorite on the album.
Can't Let Go is another song, that doesn't have "the same formula". It's an upbeat song, and again a good song. This time with Vincent Cavanagh on lead-vocals, and nice vocals it is. It gets a bit heavier in the middle of the song (a guitar-solo at last, no I don't mind, there's no solo's), and that's only good. Definitely one of the 3 best songs on the album. You can actually dance to this one, if interested.
Close Your Eyes is kind of a lullaby, sung by the lovely Douglas (well, she's okay looking, but sounding better). A very quiet song, mostly all the way through. Halfway, it get's 100% jazz, and I mean jazz, and imo it sounds just awesome. The way Douglass at the end whispers "Go back to sleep, it was only a dream," makes it shivers down my spine. Definitely one of the 4 best songs. The last 4 songs are songs I feel, I can hear again and again, probably because they are SONGS, and not like the first couple of "formular"-songs, which I also like, but may get tired of along the way.
Wildfires is kind of a return to the formula. A piano-riff, and VC singing "Wildfires" 5-6 times. Then a new riff,and back again, and then it get's heavy. Not a bad song at all, but maybe one of the songs, I will get a bit tired of, after a few months.
Last song on the album..or almost, but I'll get back to that:
Back To The Start has a nice melodi, and again it starts very quiet, then the bass and drums and especially piano appears. Again the tune is pretty simple, but nice, and again it get's heavier after a while, and again the lyrics are good but simple, and repeated a few times. The song has a nice ending with an orchestra making some "noise" and a crowd at a soccer-game singing along.
Then something that annoys me happen: Even though the song should be around 10 minutes, it "stops" after 6, and it's totally quiet for 3 minutes or more, and then you can hear..I think it's Daniel Cavanagh playing guitar and singing with his little daugther. Imo, no need at all for this, and I've only wasted my time with the last 5 minutes or so of the album two times.
I like this album a lot, and currently it's "fighting" against Cheap Trick's newest album as being my favorite of 2017. I hope there will be a few more contenders, but I do really like both those albums, and I'm glad, Anathema made a better album than their last one, which wasn't that bad, but not as good as the two that came before. This one is as good imo, and that's mainly because of the last half of so, of the album. Is this album for Heavy Metal "freaks"? Nope, but if you like Classic U2, Simple Minds from the 80's and newer Prog-bands, and like to listen, really listen to music, this will do just fine.
Okay, so I enjoyed reading your review. I am aware that you have been a fan of Anathema for a while. Based on your review, and because I've known you long enough that I totally respect your musical opinions (although we often disagree), I decided to check out a couple of these tracks. It didn't hurt that you compared them to early U2 and Simple Minds. Speaking of Simple Minds, that's a band that I've always wanted to check out but never have.
I listened to Springfield, which was okay. I've told you before that I get a sense of boredom when listening to this band. That was the feeling I got with Springfield.
I also listened to Can't Let Go. No that's a song I like. No boredom. What I get from it is that it would be a fine album to put on the stereo, pop on the fine head phones (not ear buds), and pop the top on a cold beverage or two. Sitting on the back porch during the early part of the night, around about November in Georgia would suit this style fine.
Can't say that I would pick this up, but I definitely liked Can't Let Go.
Nice review Niels.
Thank you. Well, I knew, that you would be a hard customer, since you haven't really liked this band before. I'm glad you like CLG. As I wrote, it's also one of my favorites of the album. Springfield is definitely a bad place to start (!), and it was the first song I heard from the album, so I feared it wouldn't be a good album. You're right, it's music, made for listening with your headphones on, and then concentrate, until you know the album. Try Once Upon A Time by Simple Minds, one of the 5 best album from the 80's.
I went through a Progressive Rock phase, so I heard of Anathema while browsing the Laser's Edge catalog (it's an internet shop from where I bought most of my prog stuff, since they specialize in it, and they are still around, in case you wonder) but the band's description never grabbed me, so I don't think I heard any of their music.
A music video inclusion would have made this review more complete, however no biggie, I went on Youtube and found one myself. Watched/listened to Ghost. Not my musical forte, but it is a beautiful slow song, nevertheless. The only problem was, that male dancing solo on the roof at the beginning. Have these people never seen Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonight" or they just forgot about it? This guy is a professional, but it looks like he stole his "best" moves from Billy.
I really enjoyed reading your review Niels. I hope you will do more of these in the future. If you ask me (I know you don't, so just ignore my words) the only glitch was the too many "imo's" in the paragraph describing the Optimist song. This is a Review, so it's pretty much a given that everything you say is your own opinion.
Thanks for the advice to listen the music, but that's just not for me. I want to dance. Never tried it on a roof, but what a heck. I'm open for new experiences and as soon as I figure out how to overcome the slope, I'd be dancing on my roof like there's no tomorrow.
Oh, but I do ask you, and point taken. I will let the imo go...if I can. Thanks for reading and commenting. I plan to do a review on the up-coming Steven Wilson-abum, and will add a video or two.
Man, that would be awesome... the Steven Wilson album review, that is.
I've been dying to figure out what people see/hear in that guy?
To me he is the most boring artist EVER. And when I say boring, I mean, I can write songs like he does blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back, while curved up like a ball in a 2 x 2 wooden crate. He can't sing either, so PLEASE when you do your review, tell me what do you enjoy, because for the love of Pink Floyd, Crimson, Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator I can't pass 2 minutes of listening to his stuff. (You noticed I didn't call it music.)
I'm not trying to be a troll, I just don't get it.
For example, here is Anathema... Nothing I'd like, but I do get it why some people might.
Not the case with Steven Wilson.
Be carefull, what you say around here about SW I'm sure Scott will tell you, that the new album will be album of the year. I kind of have a feeling, this new album will be a disappointment, and I will write my review after I REALLY have a final verdict, meaning probably a month or so after the release August 18. I think, Wilson sings just fine, and his last two albums are among the finest released the last 20 years or so.
You got to do better than that in your review.
I'm just saying.
There are few sins worse than dissing SW, but among them would be the following....
Ya, dont do that!
It is about time for some Smithereens!