Review: Anchor & Braille – TENSION

Back in 2014, Anberlin, one of alternative’s most exceptional bands, hung up their guitars and drumsticks. Stephen Christian has some of the most easily-identifiable vocals of the past two decades, and the idea that he wasn’t going to serenade us anymore was a thought I almost couldn’t bear. He hadn’t released anything from his side project, Anchor and Braille, since 2012, and we would have to wait another two years after Anberlin’s end for a new taste of what Stephen had to offer. 

You can buy or stream TENSION on Apple Music.

Fast forward to today, another four years later, and we finally have TENSION. Following in the footsteps of 2016’s Songs for the Late Night Drive Home, TENSION is another pop album. Synthy, 80’s-inspired, romantic – what else could we ask for?

This album is clearly dedicated to Stephen’s wife Julia, as he sings in the first single, “DANGEROUS”. While that could turn some people off, I think it’s cute. It’s sickly sweet, like eating your entire box of candy during the movie previews and having that weird feeling in your stomach for the rest of the two hours, but no one can deny that the honesty is characteristic of an Anchor and Braille album.

Personally, I prefer Songs for the Late Night Drive Home. I feel like that’s because I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of pop music, and TENSION throws us a much lighter vibe. It’s a worthy addition to the Anchor and Braille oeuvre, but it definitely is the beginning of a shift in Stephen Christian’s sound. It’s enjoyable and sure to be a summer drive album, but it doesn’t have the same hard hitting lyrics that Late Night Drive gave us. My favorite track is “Closer and Farther”, which is undeniably the closest we get to a Late Night Drive B-side.

I will always gobble up anything Stephen Christian serves us, but TENSION is very monotonous. It never ends up taking us on the journey that Stephen’s art is so known for. The highs and lows of Felt, and the emotions of Late Night Drive, that we’ve grown to love and expect from Anchor and Braille are missing here.

3.5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Queue It Up: April 13, 2020

It’s been a hot minute since we’ve tossed some singles against the wall to see what stuck with us, but we’re back with three tracks that will hopefully add a little flavor into your quarantine soup. 

Twenty One Pilots – “Level of Concern”

First we’ve got a true quarantine track from Ohio’s favorite boys Twenty One Pilots. They released “Level of Concern” as a window of how this is making them feel. The track leans pretty far into their pop side, which is in stark contrast from their last album, the dark and heavy Trench. It’s bouncy and uplifting, and perfect for picking up the mood.

Hayley Williams – “My Friend”

Next up is another new track from Petals for Armor by our queen Hayley Williams (all hail), called “My Friend”. Let me just tell you again that this album is wrecking me by the day. I can’t wait for May 8th y’all. The latest drop is a great song about friendship and how it’s so vital to all aspects of life, but definitely here as a tribute to those who have been helping Hayley through these harder years. It’s another track that seems to be right release date, right time. 

Anchor & Braille – “Dangerous”

Finally, in every sense of the word “finally”, we  have the new single from Anchor & Braille. “Dangerous” is here and it’s blowing me away. It’s the first taste we’re getting of the new A&B album and it’s made me more excited than ever. It’s a soft pop track in the vein of 2016’s Songs for the Late Night Drive Home, and it’s a wonderful track about Stephen Christian and his wife being all in love and all that cute stuff. The album TENSION is set to release on May 22nd, and that’s another clue that May might be the best month of the year. Quarantine might end (fingers crossed) and we’ll have plenty of great tunes to jam to celebrate being free. 

The 1975, Lydia, and Microwave also released singles recently so there’s no excuse to be listening to the same old thing. Let’s stay strong and keep partying in our living rooms.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

10 Sappy Songs to Share with Your Valentine

It’s Valentine’s Day and, take it or leave it, love is in the air. I have searched far and wide for the scene’s sappiest offerings to bring you this – a playlist perfect for a candlelit dinner.

1. Anchor & Braille – “Summer Tongues”

This track was on my shortlist of choices for the first dance at our wedding. It showcases Stephen Christian’s sentimental writing style at its best, and is a highlight on Anchor & Braille’s first album, Felt. The idea for this article actually came to me as I was listening to the album recently and realized what a lovely song this is. Its gentle tones will make you dream of sunnier days.

2. Panic! at the Disco – “Always”

“Always” from 2011’s Vices and Virtues is an ode to the great literary classic The Great Gatsby. For those who either skipped the reading or forgot the plot, the book centers around Jay Gatsby and his endless pining after the married lady across the water and the destruction that brings to his life. But I digress. Brendon Urie drew a lot of early Panic!’s writing inspiration from literature, and this track is a wonderful tribute to a great love story of the past.

3. Copeland – “Have I Always Loved You”

This is one of Copeland’s many offerings in the relationship department. Between “Coffee”, from Beneath Medicine Tree, to basically the entirety of 2019’s Blushing, Copeland doesn’t let a chance for a thoughtful love song pass them by. This track opens Ixora (2015) and is a reflection on (presumably) Aaron Marsh’s marriage. It begins with him reminiscing on their wedding day and moves to just doing life together, always remembering the way it began: with a white dress.

4. House of Heroes – “If”

The End Is Not the End might not seem like your top Valentine’s choice for background music but this concept album about war and relationships was one of the first albums my husband and I bonded over. He was just as surprised as I was to learn that we both knew and loved House of Heroes. This is his favorite song from the album, and ties into the theme of pop culture references with the “Bride of Frankenstein” line.

5. A Day to Remember – “You Had Me At Hello”

Here’s another song I wouldn’t have known about without Jeremiah. I pride myself in being the audiophile out of the two of us, but he has made some important contributions to my roster, including adding “You Had Me At Hello”, from A Day to Remember’s 2005 album And Their Name was Treason, to a playlist during our dating years. They’ve never been my favorite band, and the bridge to this song is pretty awkwardly written, but you can’t deny it’s cute.

6. The Wonder Years – “You in January”

Of all the songs on No Closer to Heaven, this is the one I find myself returning to again and again four years later. It’s got the trademark attention to detail writing from Dan Campbell, and as a bonus they remixed it for the first Burst and Decay EP. I like the original better, but I might be biased because of how much I liked it when the album came out. I love the personal aspects of the song, like in the bridge where he sings about how they’ve traveled together, and I love the fact that he called back to “Passing Through a Screen Door” by ending the song with “I’m glad that you stayed”. It’s The Wonder Years at their best.

7.  Say Anything – “I Want to Know Your Plans”

Another track from our wedding playlist is this surprise from Say Anything’s magnum opus …Is a Real Boy. I say “surprise” because of how unorthodox the rest of the album is compared to this almost-Shakespearean ballad. It’s always been one of my favorites from the album, simply because it is such a stark difference from the way he deals with other subjects on the album (“Every Man Has a Molly” comes to mind). It has become almost a theme to my marriage as I work every day towards keeping our relationship harmonious.

8. Mike Mains and the Branches – “Stop the Car”

Mike Mains and the Branches are a band that was largely anonymous until they signed to Tooth and Nail in 2018 to release their third album, When We Were In Love. I didn’t choose one of their new songs, but rather one from their first album called Home from 2011. This is a playful song about young love that packs a punch in the bridge. Mike sings about love, “It’s when you give and give of yourself / Until your tank runs on empty / Just to be with the one you love”. It’s an album worth your time for this song and more.

9. Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over”

No list about emo love songs would be complete without Mayday Parade. They were undoubtedly the kings of the moody love song and the best example is “Jamie All Over” from A Lesson In Romantics. Even if you’re not a Mayday Parade fan, chances are you still jam and maybe cry to this song. If only all dreams were this great, and the fact that Derek and his girl are (probably) on a break outside of the dream world is non-existent for eight hours. If they weren’t on a break who would he have written “Miserable At Best” about, amiright? It’s a total cliché to say that this is my favorite Mayday song, but who cares, it’s a classic.

10. Fall Out Boy – “I’m Like a Lawyer With the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)”

Last but not least, my favorite Fall Out Boy song to close us out on this Valentine’s Day. This was probably Fall Out Boy’s best candidate for a love song up until they released “Alone Together” in 2013. This is also in the running for longest Fall Out Boy song title as well. The optimism in this track is unparalleled in early FOB and is always a breath of fresh air when it comes through the shuffle, and Patrick’s vocals are easy to get lost in. It’s not a perfect relationship, but they’re trying. Thanks, Pete.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: Another Dose of Anchor & Braille

It’s been a very long time since we’ve heard anything new from Stephen Christian’s side project Anchor and Braille. The past three albums from the band are the other side of Stephen’s musical coin. In Anberlin we have the heavy-hitting rock, but with Anchor & Braille we have a softer, sultrier, synth-ier side. They’ve released three albums since 2009, and 2016’s Songs for the Late Night Drive Home has been a staple for me. I’ll admit I’m ready for something new.

We first got an inkling some things were moving around when Stephen posted on the Anchor & Braille Instagram for the first time since May of 2018. He then posted three consecutive photos with the distinctive Anchor & Braille use of the French language, as well as something that said “Frank Ocean” and a photo of the record deal. Stephen stated in his podcast, The Art Collective that he’d like to make another album with Aaron Marsh, which leads me to theorize a return to Tooth and Nail à la Copeland?

Whether it’s an EP, an album or a film, I’m excited to see Stephen Christian come back into the music world. Seeing Anberlin play live again was a dream come true and renewed my faith that we would hear new music from the guys again. Even though it might not be Anberlin-proper, and that may be something we never get, I’m so looking forward to new music from my all-time favorite side project.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.