Anathallo has always been a band of untapped potential. On all of their previous efforts, especially 2002’s Sparrows and 2003’s Holiday at the Sea, the band has shown flashes of brilliance in their approach to indie rock, made unique through the use of horns and a soft, atmospheric disposition. The closest they’ve ever come to greatness is “Don’t Kid Yourself, You Need a Physician,” circa 2003, but the band has yet to ever write anything that great again; it was upbeat, had some excellent sounding percussion, and boasted one of the coolest vocal parts I’ve ever heard in the bridge. However, for every awesome song they’ve done, they’ve had two or three not so great ones, mired by a slow pace, messy arrangements, and awkard moments. The band’s new release, Floating World, takes everything about this band and expands it tenfold. The question still remains: What happens when you take something not so great and turn it to eleven? The result is a fourteen-track album that satisfies very little and leaves the listener without two important things: anything to hold on to, and any reason to continue listening to the album.
Floating World is a strange, strange album, unlike anything the band has ever done. Many parts are ultra-soft to the point of almost nothing with vocals placed on top, dragging on for three minutes at a time. It’s frustrating, because this album does the exact opposite of what you think it will do. Usually such a trait is welcome, but it’s nothing more than an aggravation here, as songs refuse to climax when you think they will (see the opener “Genessaret: Going Out Over 30,000 Fathoms Of Water” [what the hell?]), and climax when they shouldn’t (see “By Number”). Actually, I should put “climax” in quotations; what I actually mean (or what the band means) by that term is an onslaught of awkward horns and messy drumming played louder than the rest of the song. Most of the songs lack any action at all, or are just too strange to listen to and get anything from, specifiically “Dokkoise House (With Face Covered)” and the title track “Hanasakajijii Two: Floating World,” where vocalist Matt Joynt could be easily mistaken for a large, female soul singer. Make no mistake, Joynt has an incredible voice which is very easy to listen to, but he travels off the beaten path here, with disastrous results.
It’s obvious that the band has talent, but it’s also obvious that they are having trouble utilizing it correctly. I feel as if they’re trying to make music that’s too beautiful, devoid of any real substance. Floating World does just that; it floats along, albeit very harmlessly. A lot of the album is really just…there, sort of like bad post-rock. Amidst the tame interludes and other empty tracks, one song does stand apart from the crowd: “Hanasakajijii Four: A Great Wind, More Ash.” The song is the most upbeat piece to be found here, having a distinct and recognizable hook, and has a huge vocal part smack dab in the middle where everyone in the band (there’s something like eight members) is harmonizing, and it’s rather amazing. If the rest of the album took a note from this track, we would be dealing with some seriously awesome stuff. Alas, such is not the case, as the mood is destroyed by the ridiculous “Hanasaksjijii One: An Angry Neighbor;”
"Asked a question, took a dog to the yard / Where he snarled / I dug, pulling out the bites of snakes! / And slugs and bugs and slugs and bugs and slugs and blah!" You get the picture. Or, maybe you don’t, which is obviously understandable as well.
And while this does not bother me, the lyrics on here are very, very religiously influenced. This music does not make me want to hunt down the lyrics in the first place, but if that sort of thing bothers you, then stay very far away from Floating World. It shouldn’t, but I can’t speak for everyone here.
Have we been that stupefied by terrible music that we immediately jump on something that sounds inherently beautiful? I’m not buying it. There’s very little to keep me interested here, and while the band has a very cool and unique sound, they still have yet to utilize it properly. Here’s to hoping their next album is a success, because even though this album is not too great, I’m pulling for them. They’ve got the stuff, but they just have to let it loose.