Anchor and Braille is the solo project of Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian and his second album The Quiet Life was released on July 31st. A deeply private person, Christian offers us a glimpse into his world by way of The Quiet Life, quoted as being “His most personal work to date.” In addition, this latest album offers a much fuller and thoughtful sound than A&B’s previous work and it was definitely a step in the right direction.
“Goes Without Saying”, “Knew Then Know Now” and “In With the New” ease the listener into this fuller sound with an up-tempo, indie-pop beat, with Christian’s signature vocals over some electronic beats – the beats being a new element that is consistently experimented with on this album. Despite the pop sound, the lyrics still remain deep and contemplative, flowing over the melody like a form of modern poetry.
“Find Me” is the debut single from the album. Christian warbles about finding the “quiet life” in the easy-going folk-pop track. From the lulling cadence in the instrumental interludes to the subtle wall of sound that builds in the choruses, there is something incredibly disarming about this track.
Unfortunately, a few of the tracks were definitely over-experimented with as far as sound and concept. “Kodachrome” takes indie-pop to a almost-eerie place as the distorted vocals fall over a seemingly “happy” tempo. Christian tackles Jeff Buckley with a cover of “Everyboyd Here Wants You”. The crooner emulates Buckley’s falsetto as he gives the cover a fuller sound and heavier soul vibe than the original. It is always a risk to cover a legend but it will really be up to the listener if this cover is proper homage to Buckley or Christian’s botched attempt at putting his own spin on a classic (albeit a not very well known classic.). However, we give him props for choosing to cover one of the most underrated artists of the last century.
Christian hasn’t completed abandoned the acoustic sound fans fell in love with on the first album. He has merely refined and perfected it. While the indie-pop tracks like “Goes Without Saying” and “In With The New” are show off the fuller side of A&B’s sound, it’s hard to ignore the simple brilliance behind the somber ballads like “Collapse” and “Hymn for Her”. These songs bleed organic artistry as Christian’s lyrical prose washes over the simple piano keys resonate that over barely-there electronic elements.
Of course the best was saved for last. “Before I Start Dreaming” is an airy ballad that falls back into that perfected, simple sound that is A&B’s signature. Christian’s mellow vocals over simple piano keys rise into lilting orchestral pieces that draw the album to a close.
The Quiet Life is now available on iTunes or at a retailer near you. The album has also just been made available for pre-order on vinyl via the band’s webstore.