Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Intelligent and beautiful Indie Rock from Anathallo

I can’t remember where I read this but someone on a discussion board described the band Anathallo as “how Sufjan Stevens would sound if he liked to rock out more and every member of his band had an IQ of 150.” I wish I could find that again to credit the author because having become a big fan of Anathallo, I have to agree with his assessment and I like how he phrased it. The music is complex and the melodies are generally pleasing. And they do rock.

Anathallo is usually lumped in with Indie music — a category that is becoming as broad as “Alternative” — but much of their work sounds almost like old Progressive Rock. Songs often have several disparate movements linked by long instrumental bridges. As a seven piece, they are able to create a lot of sound and they blend their skills to transition smoothly between song segments.

Anathallo is led by vocalist / giga-instrumentalist Matt Joynt, who hails from Mt. Pleasant, MI. The rest of the band has undergone more line-up changes since 2000 than the Kansas City Royals as they tried to get their footing in the music business. I could see that creating some difficulties, given the complexity of the musical arrangements. It seems now, though, that the members have quit their day jobs to focus on Anathallo. Good news for the rest of us.

In 2006, Anathallo released their first LP, Floating World. It is a concept album apparently based on a Japanese fairy tale, so we are treated to track names like Dokkoise House, Hanasakajijii, and Kasa no Hone. However esoteric the inspiration was for the disc, the music is entrancing. Vocal melodies are original and the harmony vocals are sweet. The percussion is organic and powerful and incorporates everything from hand claps to sleigh bells to glockenspiel. The horns serve like a Swiss army knife — always the right tool for a variety of jobs.

I pulled 6 tracks from this disc to live on my iPod and you should check them out. Sadly, YouTube has only live versions of most of this album. They are entertaining to watch but I’m linking you to Amazon samples of the studio versions anyway against my better judgement because the sound is often bad on live tracks on YouTube. If you’re interested, you can find the performances yourself and I encourage you to do so, especially because the songs on this album often have several movements so hearing a 30 second clip only gives you a glimpse of what 1/4 of the song sounds like.

  • Hoodwink – An emotional piece with sections of dirge-like piano and hand clapping interspersed with emotional wailing and straight ahead Rock guitar. These guys are deep.
  • Dokkoise House (With Face Covered) – Here we get a taste of what the horns do in this band. They’re beautifully expressive and set up the vocal passages and sprightly piano work. Unfortunately, they don’t make this sample, drop Dokkoise into the search engine on YouTube and you can hear it.
  • Hanasakajijii (Four: A Great Wind, More Ash) – A beautiful and complex piece. The sample here almost sounds like The Who for a moment, but you don’t get to hear the carnival piano and gorgeous harmony vocals from later in the song.
  • Hanasakajijii (One: The Angry Neighbor) – This sample actually gives you a good flavor for this song. Listen to how sweet the harmony vocals are and how in just these 30 seconds you get 3 distinctly different passages. That’s what these guys are all about.
  • The Bruised Reed – This is the one. This song right here made me a fan. What an amazing piece. This one is on YouTube so go listen to this entire track right now. And do yourself a favor and stick around for the final 2 1/2 minutes of this song. The middle gets a little slow, I’ll grant you, but the energetic melody at the end is incredible. I absolutely could not get this passage out of my head for weeks. I was singing it in the shower and in my car. If the beginning doesn’t do it for you, go to the 3:15 mark in the song.
  • Kasa no Hone (The Umbrella’s Bones) – This quiet, little 2-minute piece is sung in Japanese and wraps up the album. It is perhaps the only track on this release that has one consistent feel throughout the track.

I have only recently finished digesting this disc, but I see that they released a new disc, Canopy Glow, in 2008. I’ll review that one too, once I am able to give it the number of listens I’m sure it will deserve.



July 17, 2009 - Posted by | Indie, Rock

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: