Review Summary: Patron Saint, are we all lost like you?
If there's one thing every artist who embarks on a side project has to deal with it's the inevitable comparisons that will be made between his/her past material (I hesitate to use the term "main act" because when side projects become their full time gig--see Aaron Gillespie of The Almost as a terrible example of this--well, that main act ceases to be as such) and the said side project. This is especially the case with vocalists who set out to ditch the band for solo undertakings. The voice isn't something so easily malleable, nor is it noncommittal. It has identity and that persona in many ways defines and brands everything the artist does. It's the reason people either love or hate Thom Yorke's Eraser
; because as much as he may have tried to remove himself from Radiohead, his voice is too iconic to achieve that, and you'll either hate that fact or love it simply if you hate or love his voice. But it's a shame, really, because this overshadowing often distracts the listener from some truly great music when all he/she can think of is "this just sounds exactly like [insert album of perceived identical vocals]." And unfortunately, Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian's latest solo album The Quiet Life
is plagued by the same problem. But it didn't have to be.
a point when the musical statement is loud enough to set it apart no matter how definitive the vocals are. And it's what Felt
came so close to achieving. The tracks "Sleep. When We Die." and "Sheet Music. Sheet Music" were beautiful piano ballads that revealed Stephen Christian to be not as Anberlin-shackled as perhaps expected. In the end, though, there were too many tracks that played it safe and sounded more like Anberlin b-sides than the output of a separate entity.
The Quiet Life
just further accentuates this problem and what is so frustrating is that it came so close to not. The opener "Goes Without Saying" introduced a sort of M83 infused dream pop and oh, what possibilities there could have been with a record that took that and ran. It's exactly the type of thing that plays off Stephen's voice so well too. The airy falsetto soars with rain drop synth on the uplifting opener and makes the listener wonder why he didn't explore this refreshing new spin sooner. So it "goes without saying" that I was just a little bit excited to continue on through the new, delightfully uncharted territory. What was so painfully betraying, however, was that the second track continued the trend as well, but what followed in the remaining eight tracks were slow-moving alt-rock tracks that we've heard time and time again on the more mellow end of Anberlin's discography.
But what is perhaps most disconcerting of all is just how lost Christian must have been upon writing this record. There were truly moments of greatest in the first few minutes of the album, and the potential was there to create a record that held its own with the grandiose Cities
, while remaining a completely distinct product from anything Anberlin. Maybe he simply wasn't confident with the dream pop sensibilities and instead opted by attempting to recreate what was successful with Felt
. Whatever the case, I truly hope he explores this direction on future endeavors. It's about time a comparison to Cities
was a compliment.