Posted on December 26th, 2008 (1:38 pm) by Sean Morrissey

Sometimes it is what you can’t hear in the forefront of an album that makes it great. The delicate twinkles and underscored harmonies that may go unnoticed until the 10th time you sit down to listen, but once heard bring an impact as vital as the lyrics. Such is the case with Anathallo’s newest release, Canopy Glow, the follow up to 2006’s Floating World. On Canopy Glow, the Michigan septuplet further hone their multi-layered acoustic sound. Some have criticized the group of perhaps riding the musical coat tails of another Midwest folk success story by the name of Sufjan Stevens, but here the group begins to show what it is they
themselves can offer up amidst this new wave of neo-folk.

The album’s lead track “Noni’s Field” starts with a train-chugging shaker tempo that continues through even as the more traditional kit is brought in to cover. The song makes use of all the instruments and abilities displayed on the rest of the album, making it a fitting welcome for what is to come.

“Italo” highlights the angelic vocal styling of the groups’ autoharpist/percussionist, Erica Froman. Her voice is delicate and stands in strong contrast to the complicated time of a drumbeat that is sent bouncing from one speaker over to the other and back again. With a large group it can sometimes be difficult to make all the members heard, but here Anathallo has made a commendable attempt, allowing every individual percussionist and brass player to be showcased. “Northern lights” brings a simplified response to the complicated structure of “Italo.” “..Lights” is a more somber ballad with reverb, clean guitar and an understanding of vocal symmetry that helps make it one of the best executed songs on the album. It is a fitting title for a song most noted with twinkling and delicate voices.

There are times when the group seems to hold back on its best hand rather than put it all out on the table, as can be heard with the quirky “All the First Pages.” Every part works together perfectly on this upbeat would-be single, but at times when the group could have let its collective hair down and actually bring a little Rock&Roll to the album, it doesn’t. The chorus seems destined for a kind of indie rock crescendo but is sidelined by the bands acoustic wall of sound. The same can be said for “John J. Audubon,” where symbol crashes are layered so far back in the track that whatever boom impact they could have had is lost. It’s clear from early on that the band’s strongest punch is their vocal arrangements, but at certain points in the album it seems too redundant a focus.

“Tower of Babel” is a surprisingly bare boned closer, placing all attention on a single guitar and a simple melody. It’s haunting in its simplicity and a fitting end to a highly active, percussive album. The faint twinkles are just decibels above silent, but their presence is still clear upon a focused listen. This is an album absolutely suited for headphones, where these little nuances that may go unheard otherwise can be fully brought out.

Does Canopy Glow play like a waltz through your local Renaissance fair? Yes, yes it does. And, while for some, this may come across as a tad gimmicky, it is exactly the sound I would expect from such a group of Midwest multi-instrumentalists. What is perhaps most amazing is that a band so fresh and young is able to muster such a polished, orchestrated sound. Being that their career is just beginning, I’m excited to see where they take their sound in the future. Each layer is made so methodically it suggests maturity beyond their years, and knowledge that the devil is always in the detail.

Track Listing:

1. Noni’s Field (4:36)
2. Italo (3:41)
3. Northern Lights (3:49)
4. The River (4:43)
5. Cafetorium (4:05)
6. Sleeping Torpor (5:30)
7. All the First Pages (5:18)
8. John J. Audubon (3:51)
9. Bells (4:45)
10. Tower of Babel (4:08)



Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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