Words About Music
Years down the line, when we look back at the crazy decade that was the 2000s, I think that one of the bands that will be cited as one of the most ambitious, important, and off-the-wall of those years will be The Books. The Books put out four incredible albums filled with electronic indie music that really pushed the limits of sampling and plunderphonics. The duo split up acrimoniously in 2012 resulting in the formation of Zammuto, fronted by former-Book Nick Zammuto. The four-piece’s self-titled debut is one of my favorites of 2012, so you can guess that I was highly anticipating album #2. While “Zammuto” had an upbeat, summery quality to it, “Anchor” is its polar opposite. As the cover suggests, this record is cold, secluded, and not at all suitable for a summer road-trip. This is a winter album through and through. It’s robotic, calculated, and heavily melodic.
If you ask me, “Anchor” sounds bears more similarity to a contemporary Radiohead record than it does to anything The Books ever put out. There’s eclectic and seemingly random vocal melodies, deep synths, and math-jazz drum freakouts. It almost sounds like if Zach Hill got together with St. Vincent at points. “Anchor” is not normal by any stretch of the imagination. There’s incredibly dark lyricism, a cover of traditional song “Henry Lee,” and instrumental explosions characteristic of a noise rock album. What we’ve got here is one of the most creative albums I think I’ve heard all year. It’s so eccentric that sometimes I have a hard time deciding whether I love it or I’m on the fence. “Anchor” is an album you’ll probably only enjoy during certain times of the year and during certain emotional periods. I can say for sure that I’ll be revisiting it this winter.
This album is one with a distinct and consistent mood. Even when adrenaline is injected into the ever-present drums and synth melodies it’s all in the name of melancholy and desolation. “Anchor” is quite the departure from “Zammuto,” but it sort of harkens back to the creepy quality some of The Books’ music had. More than anything, this album is incredibly bleak. It’s depressing and sort of tough to get on first listen, but it’s worth each listen until you do feel like you get it. Nick Zammuto has never been known for indulging in anything even remotely straightforward, but some of the songs on here come as close to straightforward as I think he’s ever gotten. Sometimes you can even make out something resembling a discernible riff or phrase and it sounds really cool, and other times there’s noises and voices you can’t hear or make sense of. That’s just the way of this album.
While time will tell my ultimate opinion of this album, at this point in time I love what’s going on here. It’s a consistent record that starts of slow but very rapidly picks up speed and pulls you in. There’s all sorts of weird refrains and phrases and weirdness on here that it can be really tough to make sense of. I still don’t think I’ve entirely accomplished an understanding of it. But I can tell you that from a surface-level perspective, “Anchor” is a layered, thorough, and expertly crafted electronic indie rock record. It’s tough to get and even tougher to categorize, but the greatness that lies on the surface is not difficult to perceive.
SCORE – 8.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – Hegemony, Henry Lee, Need Some Sun, Electric Ant, IO, Stop Counting, Sinker, Your Time