Review Summary: If you thought 'Felt' would be simply amazing, you'll be surprised to find out that it's much, much more.
Dimly lit rooms. Candles. Apparitions. Floating. These are all random thoughts that surface in the dregs of my mind whilst listening to Stephen Christian's solo project 'Felt'. The best part about all these seemingly unconnected thought-processes is the fact that throughout the entire duration of 'Felt', never once
did I think about Anberlin. When I listened to the haunting, yet romantic 'Blur' I wasn't reminded of Anberlin's 'Inevitable'; when I listened to the poppy and illustrious single 'Like Steps In a Dance' I did not immediately think of Anberlin's 'Breathe'. Truth be told, 'Felt' separates itself so effectively and beautifully from Stephen Christian's real
band that it's easy to pretend that he's a completely different artist with Anchor & Braille. The record sounds calming, brooding and completely spiritual in it's presentation; eery, enigmatic and comforting; celestial, emotive and artistic all at once. Carried by the soothing falsettos of Stephen Christian and prodded along by catchy pianos, muted trumpets and crescendoing strings, the record is remarkably engrossing for something so organic and stripped down. Simplicity. Heartbreak. Love. Death. With each successive listen, a myriad of new words present themselves relatable to 'Felt' -- and luckily, none of those words are "Anberlin".
However, if any element of Anberlin was carried over in Stephen Christian's transition from frontman to singer-songwriter, it was his ability to create brain-invading hooks and anthemic, catchy choruses. In more obvious cuts like 'Rust (The Short Story of Mary Agnosia)' and 'Sheet Music / Sheet Music', Christian's ability to create a hook is completely uncanny -- boiling up memorable melodies that refuse to leave your head, even after one
listen. Counterintuitively, more spiritual and distant-in-nature songs such as the poignant 'Wedding / Funeral' or the elegiac 'Summer Tongue' communicate just as much as the poppier tunes with their foreboding atmosphere and dissonant composition. In perfect balance with Stephen Christian's positively astral voice (if you thought he commanded Anberlin with ease, you'll marvel at how much more well suited he is in front of a piano), the instrumentation is deservedly minimalist, providing an ample and effective backdrop for the vocal wizardry that makes up the majority of the record. However, that's not to say that the band production of 'Felt' is run-of-the-mill; it isn't in the slightest: producer Aaron Marsh of Copeland (who makes an appearance on 'Forget Love, I Just Want You to Make Sense to Me Tonight') keeps things interesting with a few guitar solos, sparkling bells, electronic drums and decidedly unglossy production that highlights the sincerity of Stephen Christian's writing.
Searching for a glaring fault on a near flawless record is a trying but relatively fruitful quest: throughout 'Felt', Christian undoubtedly abuses his ethereal falsetto; while this isn't terribly disconcerting (it's more like getting smothered by purring chinchillas, cute but asphyxiating), it does lessen the lasting effect of the record. Secondly, Christian has a small knack for self-plagariazation, with some songs sounding increasingly familiar to one another -- for example, 'Rust (The Short Story of Mary Agnosia)' and 'Like Steps In a Dance' boast catchy choruses that sound almost identical, despite being in separate keys and scales. Lastly, 'Felt' may steal one too many pages from Aaron Marsh's Holy Book of Copeland (most of which can be accredited to Aaron Marsh's production), with a handful of the compositions sounding like unpolished samples off of 'You Are My Sunshine'. Ultimately, these nuances are so easily forgivable given the awe-filled bulk of 'Felt' and the repetition is basically completely ignorable.
'Felt' is evocative and engaging; enigmatic and magical, functioning cohesively with little to no decrepencies. 'Felt' is a record of many words. Power outage. Sincerity. Afterlife. Or as Stephen Christian himself describes it, "exploring a museum at night with all the lights off". Ultimately, there are a million different ways to describe 'Felt'; none of which involve the word "Anberlin" or "letdown". Hallelujah.