Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: Anathallo

What Is This Feeling?

I made a goal to see more theater (musicals especially) and this year I’ve succeeded. The Book of Mormon, then Once, and now Wicked, which I saw on Thursday. I loved the music of Once in its own right, but it’s different from that of the others, which are more traditional showtunes. That said, there is something I love about showtunes I can’t easily describe. It’s almost entirely about the music itself, not the show’s plot or characters. I consider the people who write them to be craftsman of the highest order.

Consider “What Is This Feeling?” from Wicked (above). The first go of the chorus (which starts at 1:12 in the video) is a sparse iteration that builds to the second chorus, which adds the undulating strings beneath the backing band that’s punctuating the singers’ lines. The final two choruses are even bigger and better with the ensemble chiming in and the leads cranking up the melody. The chord structure of the orchestral undertow isn’t anything elaborate, nor are the sung melodies and harmonies; but when combined, it’s like beautiful musical alchemy.

That’s just one example of the many songs created for both the stage and screen that tap into the deep power of music. While I’m sure entire books and dissertations have been written on how music affects emotion, for me it’s not academic. I don’t know why the chorus of Anathallo’s “All the First Pages” gives me goosebumps. Or how the heroic strains of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” makes my heart soar. They just do. And the people who make that music get a standing ovation from me.

The Best Albums Of 2008

There was a lot of music released in 2008. I didn’t listen to most of it because I was too busy listening to the following albums to listen to much of anything else. I don’t expect to see any of these albums honored at the Grammys, but I still love them like my own hypothetical children. So here are the five albums that had me rapt in 2008.

copleand_yams-296x3001. You Are My Sunshine by Copeland

I didn’t think Copeland could top their 2006 release Eat, Sleep, Repeat-one of my all-time favorites-but sure enough, with a change of labels and general disposition, they drop You Are My Sunshine, their sunniest project yet. It’s rife with glorious choruses, delectable pop rock invention, though-provoking lyrics and angelic falsetto from lead singer/guitarist/pianist Aaron Marsh. Marsh has iterated that the band has no agenda for their music other than art. In this, they pass with flying colors. —– Standout track: “On the Safest Ledge”

61mljyjsk5l_sl500_aa240_2. Canopy Glow by Anathallo

This Chicago-based octet has been making music for awhile now, but Canopy Glow is their crowning achievement. It’s a Monet in musical form-full of nuance and lush color with a huge canvas of tools in use from the concert bass drum to hand bells. It’s also much more focused than previous works; no track runs longer than six minutes and, in spite of unconventional song structures and jarring time signatures, the album as a whole is far more accessible. The complex storytelling and musical technique leaves much to be discovered in Canopy Glow. —– Standout track: “All the First Pages”

51qrwqxpurl_sl500_aa240_3. Volume One by She & Him

Normally, I’d say stay the hell away from a CD made by an actress or non-musical celebrity (case in point: Paris Hilton). But for Volume One, Elf actress Zooey Deschanel teams up with alt-folk rocker M. Ward and actually creates something good. Something really good, actually. Deschanel’s voice, nasally but sexy, is the cornerstone of this folksy album-a mixture of sultry ballads, string-fueled anthems, and straight-up bubblegum pop. It’s pop music with gravitas and I’m loving every minute of it. —– Standout track: “Sentimental Heart”

611o6extubl_sl500_aa240_4. Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends by Coldplay

I know I’m just another hitchhiker on the “Coldplay is good now!” bandwagon that revved up after the release of their latest album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, but I can’t help it; it’s just a great album from what was once a tolerable band. I like it when bands who get stuck in a boring funk decide to spice things up and take some chances-Chris Martin and Co. have done just that and have a beautiful epic to show for it. The title track may have been overplayed on the radio, but it’s still the best track of the year, hands down. —– Standout track: “Viva la Vida”

512fqtv0d8l_sl500_aa240_5. That Lucky Old Sun by Brian Wilson

For a long time I appreciated the Beach Boys just as much as the other guy, but it wasn’t until I dug into Brian Wilson’s solo stuff when I realized his musical genius. There isn’t a better melody writer out there than Wilson, and his newest album That Lucky Old Sun gives a familiar yet welcome taste of classic surf rock in the form of a narrative ode to his native southern California. This album will fit snugly beside the immortal Beach Boys tracks of old, but it still deserves its own love. —– Standout track: “Live Let Live”

Honorable Mentions:

Harps and Angels by Randy Newman; Stop Heartbeat by The Foxglove Hunt; Be OK by Ingrid Michaelson

Canopy Glow by Anathallo

One of my favorite albums of the year:

61mljyjsk5l_ss500_1

Over the last eight years they have been making music together, Anathallo’s sound has evolved slowly and subtly. Starting in 2001 with Luminous Luminescence in the Atlas Position and continuing with A Holiday at the Sea two years later, the band had adopted an almost avant garde twist to their orchestral indie flare. This trend continued with the Japanese folklore-centered Floating World in 2006. But in Canopy Glow, the band’s latest endeavor, their happy asymmetry has been slightly smoothed out in favor of a more streamlined yet still wholly original sound.

Still, the Anathallo touch remains strong in Canopy Glow. They follow the hypnotic opening track “Noni’s Field” with “Italo,” one of many tracks in which the dual male/female vocals from Matt Joynt and Erica Froman and the exceptional drumming lead the way. Other highlights include the flighty “John J. Audubon” and “Northern Lights,” which is a perfect example of art imitating life; the aurora borealis comes to life in this song’s droning glow.

The tone throughout Canopy Glow is relatively more somber than their previous works, especially Joynt’s vocals. The Chicago-based octet uses the piano and guitar in a much more traditional way than they have in the past, mixing a funky piano riff into the steady groove of “All the Same Pages.” It’s like they’re running for president: moving to the center while still holding on to some radical roots. In the end, though, it’s still the same Anathallo-the perfect mix of quirk, catchiness, and a whole lot of talent.

Soundtrack of the moment, part II

These are some songs I’m listening to. I think you should too.

“Lost in Space” – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space
Such a hauntingly beautiful song. Imagine driving through the desert at night with this whole album on repeat and you have an awesome musical experience.

“Seize the Day” – Alan Menken – Newsies soundtrack
Man, I love this movie. If you haven’t seen it and loved it, I will fight you.

“Hoodwink” – Anathallo – Floating World
What a mind-blowing album. These dudes mold music into forms never seen before.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Their later stuff is way better than the surf rock stuff they started out with. Check out the entire album.

“Come Together” – The Beatles – Abbey Road
One of the coolest and most memorable openers I’ve ever heard.

“Jesusland” – Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman
What can I say? The dude knows how to make good music.

“Trolley Song” – Dave Brubeck – Greatest Hits
Sounds exactly as the title suggests. This guy is a piano player if I’ve ever heard one.

“Break on Through” – The Doors – The Doors
This song always reminds me of Forrest Gump.

“Tiny Dancer” – Elton John – Madman Across the Water
Of Almost Famous fame. A really catchy song from a gifted musician, however odd he may be.

“Belle” – Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams
This just puts you in a street cafe in Paris. It’s almost too good a song.

“Mother” – John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
You can tell that it’s a cathartic song for John. I highly recommend all of his solo work, especially Imagine and Mind Games.

“Waiting on the World to Change” – John Mayer – Continuum
Am I a sell out if I like John Mayer and his ridiculously catchy tunes? Oh well, it’s a good song with an honest message.

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways
The man’s a straight-up badass. This is his last album and a damn good one at that. You can hear the pain in his voice and feel the ache in his fingers.

“Money” – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
In an album that’s basically half instrumental, this song shines through as one of the best.

“When She Loved Me” – Sarah McLachlan – Toy Story 2 soundtrack
Man, this song just killed me. An incredible addition to a near-perfect film. If you aren’t in tears by the end, you have no soul.

“Deathbed” – Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago
I’m in the minority that think that this album is not their best, in fact, a far weaker effort than mmHmm. But this epic masterpiece stands out amongst the other forgettable songs.

“Cecilia” – Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
One of the many infectious folk-rock tunes they created. Get all the albums.

“Zoo Station” – U2 – Achtung Baby
I’ve never been a gigantic U2 fan, but I really liked this album.

“Roundabout” – Yes – Fragile
A great mix of classical, 70s rock, and psychedelia.

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