Review Summary: A keyboard driven indie-rock confectionary baked in catchy choruses, dueling vocals and delicious dynamic, 'Designing for a Nervous Breakdown' is the musical realization of "a recipe for success".
Do you see the artistic 16-bit spasms that decorate the cover of this nearly-decade-old album? If I told you that the album sounds
like the artwork looks
, would you believe me? No? Good -- for if that was true, that would make 'The Anniversary' a crappy nintendo-politi-core band with ridiculously autotuned vocals and song names like "What Happens If I Can't Check My Myspace When We Get There?
". However, it would be correct to say that The Anniversary's sound - whilst having a heavy indie-rock influence - is widely based around lo-fi synth lines, glitchy and dynamic drumming and other retro-esque nuances that are commonly associated with bad music. Unconventional song structures, catchy duel vocal melodies and near-progressive/near-emo/near-alt rock songs are littered around their turn-of-the-century debut, sprinkled with flawless time changes, bombastic harmonies and ample riff-work. Each musician puts forward a flawless and hugely original performance, which is largely complimented by a well-mixed production that showcases each and every element of the forty minute running time. With the only obvious flaw appearing on 'Designing for a Nervous Breakdown' being a slight bit of repetition, the record ends up being a near indie-rock classic that suffers most from chronic underexposure.
First and foremost, it's important to acknowledge the brilliance of The Anniversary's compositions: while not immediately glaring on the relatively standard opening track 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter', deeper cuts like the poppy, illustrious 'Hart Crane' or the triumphant closer 'Outro In No Minor' exemplify the quirky, unpredictable knack for songwriting that the band possesses. Guitarists Josh Berwanger and Justin Roelofs trade off bar chord riffs and clean interludes, utilizing dirty distortion, grungy clean tones and acoustic interludes (see 'Without Panasos') while the sonic backbone of The Anniversary's curious sound is built up by keyboardist Adrianne Verhoeven and bassist James David. Both musicians are given more-than-generous flashy moments that never become untasteful or gratuitous (see the introduction to 'Perfectly'); managing to be technically impressive while still carrying the songs from introduction to conclusion seamlessly and dexterously. The male-female dueling vocals of Berwanger and Verhoeven are also a perfect example of musical multitasking, balancing their fluid harmonies and indie-melodies with one another, while drummer Christian Jankowski pushes each song energetically and dramatically, providing an ample heartbeat to the majority of the album. Even better yet, The Anniversary lives up to their impressive resume of talent in every facet of 'Designing for a Nervous Breakdown'; 'The D in Detroit' features impressive synth nintendo-shredder licks, 'All Things Ordinary' fulfills it's ultimate purpose as a catchy-as-hell dance-single and the ethereal 'Shu Shubat' lulls the listener carefully before reaching it's respective and satisfying climax.
I listened to this record over and over meticulously in search for an inherent flaw, and beyond discovering that it may be a bit repetitious (not a problem for me, however), I think the biggest problem with 'Designing for a Nervous Breakdown' is how little people have actually heard
it. Whether it be difficult to find, whether it be viciously underpromoted by Vagrant Records, The Anniversary simply haven't gotten anywhere near the praise they deserve for this record. The album seamlessly combines fun, diversity and relative technicality into a potpourri of musical experimentation that is wholly memorable, flexible and eclectic. Nearly a decade after it's release, I'm only stumbling upon it now but alas, as the familiar saying states: "it's better late than never