Artist: Anchor & Braille (Spotify) (iTunes)
Title: The Quiet Life
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: 7/31/12
Reviewer: Carter Fraser
- Goes Without Saying
- Knew Then Know Now
- Find Me
- In With the New
- If Not Now, When
- Hymn for Her
- Everybody Here Wants You
- Before I Start Dreaming
In some ways, it’s almost surprising just how much more accomplished The Quiet Life feels in comparison to Anchor & Braille’s last output, Felt, despite not feeling vastly superior. What Stephen Christian has done with The Quiet Life is address the nuances of his spacey, yet intimate solo sound, while slightly ignoring some of the bigger picture issues. However, these issues aren’t glaring, as they weren’t on Felt. Christian’s attention to detail on The Quiet Life is remarkable; in that regard, it’s possibly his most mature effort of his career, with Anberlin or Anchor & Braille. Never before has Christian put out anything this intricate, and it sees him taking Anchor & Braille beyond the simple frontman’s side project.
Ultimately, Christian feels much more at home on The Quiet Life, despite stepping out creatively just as much or more than he did on Felt. This time around producers Kevin Dailey (of Civil Twilight) and Micah Tawlks join him. They’ve done a magnificent job; The Quiet Life is among the better sounding albums in recent memory. The aesthetics of this release are simply phenomenal. Where Felt seemed a bit cold, nervous, and detached, The Quiet Life is just the opposite: warm, confident, and deeply personal. The change is evident in the opening seconds, as the swell of “Goes Without Saying” evokes comparisons to the drones of Beach House, but with a poppier vibe and a single persona twinkling through the shimmers. The combination of electronic and traditional drums throughout the record is refreshing and gives everything a nice modern wash without sounding plastic by any means.
The flaws, of course, are the same as they were on Felt; it’s just not that catchy. The overwhelmingly common criticism of Felt was that it was simply too one-note. As fetching as it was, it struggled to be memorable. The same is true of The Quiet Life, albeit to a much lesser degree. “Goes Without Saying” is easily the catchiest track, and is probably the overall best song in Anchor & Braille’s career. It’s rivaled in the catchiness department by its follow-up “Knew Then Know Now,” a wonderfully nostalgic pop song. The record as a whole is still a bit ploddy and retains much of Felt’s syrupy slowness, but again this is much less noticeable this time around.
The biggest difference quite simply is in Christian’s outlook; even if he doesn’t always sound happy, he sounds at least content—and a few years wiser. At this point it’s difficult to imagine him as the younger man that once naively shouted, “boys speak in rhythm, and girls just lie!” Yet, despite the years passed, Christian is still intent on changing the world, striking the chord, and re-writing history, but now he’s more realistic and pensive, most clearly shown on the powerful last three tracks. The issues he sees are more personal than ever, and that makes this latest effort all the more meaningful.
Overall: The Quiet Life as a whole is among Stephen Christian’s most articulate work of his career, both musically and lyrically. Though it’s likely to take some time to process all of the thick, moody twists, the reward is possibly greater than anything he’s been a part of since Cities.
RIYL: Copeland, Bon Iver, Deas Vail, Radiohead, Beach House, Anberlin