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: mewithoutYou
Album: Ten Stories
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Label: Independent

It's been three years since mewithoutYou last released an album, 2009's experimental folk album It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright!. The band had said that on their newest album they'd include elements from this album as well as 2004's Catch for Us, the Foxes and 2006's Brother, Sister. Usually when bands say they're going "back to their roots" I don't believe them, because most times it's not true. mewithoutYou's newest album Ten Stories is the exception of this rule. With this being the band's first completely independent album they had all of the artistic freedom to make the best album they can, and when they say they're combining three albums and three styles into one album, they meant it.

Personally, [A-->B] Life, and Catch for Us, the Foxes were my two favorite albums by the band, but the other albums grew on me and I love them just as much. I was hoping for more influences from Catch for Us, the Foxes (CFUTF) on this album, but it seems mostly like the music comes from Brother, Sister and there are a couple of songs that seem like they could have been on It's All... The album starts out with the "sequel" song "February 1878" which is one of the songs on the album that sounds the most like the band's earlier material, and starts the album with a bang. The next few songs bounce between the styles of the band's latest two albums, with the softer edge to the music, and Aaron singing more than his spoken word/screaming vocal style. There aren't too many songs on here that are strictly folk like the last album, but the song "Cardiff Giant" starts out very folky, and then about 2:40 into the song Aaron screams the last few lines further blurring the lines of the distinct sounds of the band's albums. The band finds a way to blend all of these rather different styles of music within the album, and sometimes within one single song, like they did on "Grist for the Malady Mill". Not only do they blend the styles, they do so flawlessly and make it feel like it's one style, more like this is musically the album that mewithoutYou has been building to over the last ten years. 

The album is more-or-less a concept about a circus train wreck. The lyrics for the songs revolve around a few main characters like the tiger, rabbit, elephant, fox, and bear. As with every song Aaron and the boys have done the lyrics are clearly a metaphor for people, and are deeper and more thought provoking than anything else you'll hear. The entire album is one continuing story, with each song becoming more a chapter in a masterful story than a song on an album. Reading through the lyrics, it's more like reading a classic children's story than it is reading song lyrics from 2012. One of my favorite lines comes from "Grist for the Malady Mill" in which it says "And don't it just break your heart to hear of so much pain?" To me this is kind of like hearing about all the pain and suffering that Jesus went through for us, and it should break our hearts to hear of His pain, and to know He endured that pain out of His love for us! Most of the albums lyrics cannot be taken out of context because like I said they're part of an ongoing story from the first line of "February, 1878" to the last word of "All Circles". Perhaps the best line of the entire album comes from the song "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume" in which Aaron says "...though,some with certainty insist that 'no certainty exists'..." Every single day I hear people say that God does not exist, and they are always certain of this "fact", and I think that is exactly the point the line and song are trying to make.

Overall: mewithoutYou has been releasing excellent albums for ten long years, and they've finally released their masterpiece. The combining of different musical styles and influences in such a masterful and flawless fashion is a welcome breath of fresh air, in an industry that wants to spit out the same album over and over again. The lyrics telling the story of humanity through animals remind me of the book Watership Down, and shows that Aaron is one of the best lyricist of our times, and puts some much time, thought, and passion into each and every word he puts into a song. There are also two guest appearances by Hayley Williams of Paramore, adding to her impressive list of guest appearances in faith-based music (she also appeared on a song with The Chariot), although she mostly does backing vocals, or provides a more more feminine harmony to the songs she performs on, the songs would not be the same without her, and I applaud the band on their choice of female guest vocalist.

I was hesitant of this album, after what was to me a disappointing album in 2009, but the band has found itself, found its ideal sound, and made the best mewithoutYou album ever, and perhaps the best album of 2012.

Rating: 10/10

Recommended Tracks: "February, 1878", "Elephant on the Dock", "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume", and "East Enders Wives"

Reviewed by Michael Small

1. February, 1878
2. Grist for the Malady Mill
3. East Enders Wives
4. Cardiff Giant
5. Elephant in the Dock
6. Aubergine
7. Fox's Dream of the Log Flume (Featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore)
8. Nine Stories
9. Fiji Mermaid
10. Bear's Vision of St. Agnes
11. All Circles (Featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore)

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