Artist Of The Week - Anchor & Braille

It's been about three years since we've gotten an album from Anchor & Braille, the indie side project of Anberlin's Stephen Christian, but this week, on July 31st, the band's sophomore album will be released. The Quiet Life is a collection of haunting melodies and catchy percussion, certainly a maturation of sound since 2009's Felt. The Quiet Life is available now in stores and online through Tooth & Nail Records.


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Artist: Switchfoot

Album: Vice Verses

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Label: lowercase people records

It’s amazing what independence can do for a band. Since forming their own label, lowercase people, Switchfoot released the Grammy award winning Hello Hurricane in 2009, and just released what many people are considering its companion album, Vice Verses. Whilst recording their previous album the band mentioned they had four albums worth of music, they wanted to release. Instead they went back into the studio and recorded their eighth studio album, and focused on each individual song until it was what they considered perfect.

Vice Verses is more of a drum/bass driven album than Hello Hurricane, but at the same time it contains the overall vibe from that album. It’s refreshing to see such a huge band like Switchfoot not make the same album over and over again. Where Hello Hurricane was more laid back on most tracks, Vice Verses is the opposite, it’s more of a rock album with brief breaks for the Switchfoot staple softer song. You get both sides of what the band has become in recent years, and then they throw you a curveball. The band experiments with some Beck vibes on songs like “The War Within” and especially the super-raw, amazing song “Selling the News”. The music on Vice Verses is quite diverse and possibly some of the best playing I’ve heard from the band in their fifteen year career. From the opening riffs of “Afterlife” you know you’re in for a big rock song. The song takes on an almost Bon Jovi-esque stadium rock feel, it’s just such a big sounding song. The next song takes on a more upbeat tone to it with awesome musicality, and another dimension of Jon’s vocals. From the opening of the third track, you know this song is going to be like nothing you’ve heard from the band, and it really shows off the focus on the rhythm section of the band. It’s also one of the strongest tracks on the album. ”Blinding Light” starts off with this funky little riff and then it disappears and shows up a few other sections of the song, but the song turns out to be a soft song that reminds of The Fray meets One Republic. Then comes the climax of the album, the track “Selling the News”, on this track the band experiments with those Beck sounds, and they nail it! The song is probably the best Switchfoot song I’ve heard, and sure to be one fans talk about for years to come. Most of the rest of the album settles into the Hello Hurricane sound with the softer songs, with the exception of the lead single “Dark Horses” which a radio-friendly mainstream song, not that that’s a bad thing, but for once the lead single isn’t the strongest/best song on the album.

What can you say about Jon Foreman’s vocals after all these years, they’re always about the same right? Wrong! Granted many of the songs, feature the vocal style we’ve all come accustomed to with the band, but there are several songs where he pushes the boundaries of what he can do with is voice, and almost every time it pays off. “Selling the News” features Jon almost rapping his lyrics, which may be some of the most powerful I’ve heard, his voice is just so raw with the emotions he’s conveying through the lyrics. It’s simply amazing. He kind of does the same on “The War Within” which features a vocal style which is hard to explain, other than just listen to it, and you’ll love it. As far as lyrics go they’re what you’d expect from the band. They’re good but nothing really spectacular. There are however some lines that really stick out to me, for example the opening song “Afterlife” has the lines “I've tasted fire/I'm ready to come alive/I can't just shut it up and fake that I'm alright /I'm ready now /I'm not waiting for the afterlife”. I love how it’s basically saying that there is no better time to make right with God and accept Him as he accepts us, don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t wait until the afterlife. The lyrics of the entire song “Selling the News” really speak to me with the raw emotion, and critique of what America has really become but the one line that really hit me like a ton of bricks is “suspicion is the new religion”, because a lot of Americans have become like that during recent times and events.

Overall: I didn’t think Switchfoot could do better than Hello Hurricane, and I’m still not 100% sold that this album is better than that album, but is definitely tied at least. If you put Hello Hurricane and Vice Verses together you have a masterpiece. The more I listen to the album the more I fall in love with it as a whole. The focus on the bass/drum section is refreshing and makes for a very good and solid rock album. The experimentation with some other vocal styles was a very welcome aspect of the album, not only did the band try something new but they blew it out of the water. The lyrics for the most part are ok, but there are some exceptions like I said. “Selling the News” should go down in history as the best Switchfoot song of all-time. Vice Verses will absolutely make several apperences in my CD player, as well as a much deserved place on my top albums of 2011. Do yourself a favor, and go buy both Hello Hurricane and this new album, Vice Verses because they’re the perfect compliments to each other.

Rating: 8/10

Recommended Tracks: "Afterlife", "The War Within", "Selling the News", and "Dark Horses"

Reviewed by: Michael Small

1. Afterlife
2. The Original
3. The War Within
4. Restless
5. Blinding Light
6. Selling the News
7. Thrive
8. Dark Horses
9. Souvenirs
10. Rise Above It
11. Vice Verses
12. Where I Belong

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