Anathallo is not what you’d call a conventional band by any means. Each of their releases has a unique quality, a quality that can be seen in not only the music but in the inspiration behind the music and even in the album art work. Canopy Glow however is structured in a much more conventional way than anything Anathallo has done before. It comes packaged in the typical jewel case, it features ten tracks and the songs have the usual verse and chorus arrangement. But lets face it, what makes an album is the music, and when it comes to the music Anathallo always has something very special up their sleeves.
When I first listened to Canopy Glow the thing that jumped out at me the most was the vocals, particularly that of Erica Froman. Froman wasn’t even a member of the band on their last album, she simply provided guest vocals. I assume she was then asked to join sometime soon after. Now that she’s a full fledged member her vocals are used extensively providing beautiful harmonies reminiscent of Eisley and she even lays down a few lead vocals as well. Lead singer Matt Joynt also adds something new with his vocals. There are a number of tracks in which Joynt utilizes the lower range of his voice, which is something he hasn’t explored much in past releases.
One of Anathallo’s biggest strengths is their ability to use a wide range of instrumentation and ability to construct some incredible arrangements. On Canopy Glow I feel they’ve pulled the reigns in a bit but still managed to achieve a rich layered sound. Two always present aspects of Anathallo’s sound is their use of percussion and horns. The horns aren’t as prominent this time around but the percussion shines as always, I especially enjoyed their use of the piano throughout. It provides a happy splashy sort of sound in songs like “Noni’s Field” and “The River.” A new instrument Anathallo has added to their arsenal are a set of hand bells. The band found the bells in their practice space at an old Church in Chicago, and sure enough they ended up incorporating them into the album. In fact, the appropriately named song, “Bells” almost exclusively features the hand bells along with vocals. I’ve posted the music video of the song at the top of the post and I’m sure you’ll agree it is a uniquely beautiful song.
Lyically Canopy Glow is pretty abstract. I’m sure there is a deep meaning behind many of the songs but to be honest I haven’t had enough time to really delve into the lyrics. There is on song I would like to highlight though, called “The River.” I’ve read a few articles and interviews in which the band discusses the story behind this song. Singer Matt Joynt has this to say about it, “…the song The River is about Erica’s mom, when she was crossing a river and the current picked her up and swept her away, and she thought she was going to die, and just resigned herself to it. She found a total sense of peace looking up at the trees overhead, and the canopy of leaves and the light coming through them.” I thought that was such an amazing story and they did a great job of really capturing the profound nature of that situation, both in the music and in the lyrics. It easily one of Anathallo’s best songs to date.
This has been a difficult review to write and I realized it was because Anathallo has so much going on that is hard to describe. I’m not even sure if I was able to clearly communicate how I felt about this album but I will say this; Canopy Glow is a wonderful album, one of the best of the year. If you like music in any way you should really check it out, it’s more than worth a listen.
I give it five stars.