Anathallo – Canopy Glow
Record Label: Anticon. Records
Release Date: November 18, 2008
Canopy Glow has washed over me with the subtlety and smoothness I expected. That’s not to say it hasn’t left a mark. Anathallo’s ungodly ability to use a billion people at once and still create dreamy, folky pop is, quite simply, arresting. Each member brings with them a vast musical repertoire, so the forms each song can take are nearly infinite. However, Anathallo choose time and time again to swoosh by like a frigid wind. You’ll feel them for a moment, and then they’re gone. Memorable moments are harder to come by than on 2006’s Floating World, but if history has taught me one thing about this band, it’s that one moment you won’t give a damn and the next moment you’ll be tithing to the great Anathallo In The Sky. Canopy Glow takes time, and that's something I just don't have.
Matt Joynt and Erica Froman steal this particular show with their layered, fairytale-esque harmonies. From the first moments of “Noni’s Field,” where Froman whirrs softly behind Joynt’s tenor, to “Lost Ring Finger”’s rapid-fire delivery and magnificent, piano-led gang vocals, these two conduct with perfect precision. While “Lost Ring Finger” may be the most forceful track (and therefore the most memorable), Canopy Glow prefers emphasizing its delicateness. “Northern Lights”, for example, is all voices and handbells. Headphones were made for songs like this. And I must credit Anathallo for turning handbells (not surprisingly, they are also prominent on “Bells”) into a relevant pop instrument. When I think handbells, I think my 4th grade English teacher standing in a choir robe, her curly hair haphazardly covering gigantic glasses. She’s not standing next to a hip trombone or flugelhorn player. Oh no, she’s standing next to another person playing a bigger handbell. This person happens to be the local pharmacist, and she has no idea how to read music. Umm, sorry about that; moving on.
“The River” is a good signpost for where Anathallo are (hopefully) headed. Prominent horns, violins and a tendency toward the up-tempo recall a smarter, cleverer piece from Luminous Luminescence. Jeremiah Johnson’s inventive drumming is unleashed (which doesn’t happen too often), and this gives the track a comfortable soft-rock vibe (that both you and your mother will adore). “Sleeping Torpor”, however, is a strange evolution. Froman sings a creepy lullaby – like there’s any other kind! – over thrown-together percussion, which is all well and good if not a bit boring. This middle-of-the-album track drags for over five minutes when it could snugly fit within three. Even with the horn build-up and interesting take on classical songwriting, “Sleeping Torpor” fails to intrigue like it should. Its lyrical mediocrity should have been superiority, and therefore we sit ominously eyeing the skip button.
Ending the album with a nap is “Tower of Babel.” More emphasis on singing and sparse instrumentation presents itself in another unnecessarily long song. I know what to expect with Anathallo, but sometimes their reluctance to let themselves go is beyond annoying. Why not throw everything you got at us and let us decide which part rules the most? Canopy Glow's intricacies are so apparent because they are ironically easy to find. “First is the handbell track, then comes the xylophone track, and finally we have the trombone song.” Maybe making us sift a bit isn’t such a bad idea. At the very least it will keep us engaged.
I usually mostly agree with your reviews, but I could not disagree with this one more.
Yes, this album is slow and mellow, but it's also beautiful.
If you're a fan of Floating World, which seems to be the case, I don't know why you wouldn't enjoy this.
That being said, great review. Everything was well said, even if I disagreed haha
Great review Blake, but I have to respectfully disagree. I really love this album, understanding that it's not amazing, I think I'd give it an 88. I'm writing this review for highbeam, so that will probably translate into a 9.
Oh man. I respect your review, but I just love this album. I don't think it's close to Floating World, but I think it's a strong album altogether. Love "Italo", "The River", and "Cafetorium". I'd probably give it closer to an 85%, but I understand not all music is for everyone.