Anathema – The Optimist
Anathema have come a long, long way – starting out as what is now generally regarded as a not very good rock band back in 1993 and shifting gradually over the course of eleven albums into a band that can be as ambient as they are progressive. By this we mean to say you’re as likely to hear Anathema rocking out as you are to hear them crafting something soulful and piano-driven.
Produced by Tony Doogan (whose credits include both Mogwai and Belle & Sebastian, a potentially odd mix that seem to find their apotheosis in Anathema, who straddle that noise-pop axis with under-rated aplomb) who encouraged the band to record live in the studio (which they hadn’t done in years), The Optimist finds the band exploring new territory. Complex drum patterns undercut crunchy guitars on the likes of Leaving It, earnest piano ballads that build into epic guitar monsters (see Endless Ways and Springfield, among others) and tight, urgent indie pop (such as Can’t Let Go).
And yet Anathema have struggled over the years to make their mark on the mainstream. You can’t help but listen to this and wonder a) whether this is the album their fans want them to make or b) whether this is the album to introduce them to new fans. At one extreme, you sense Anathema want to be taken seriously (in the way that, say, the aforementioned Mogwai are taken seriously); unfortunately, however, there are times they can sound a bit like Deacon Blue or Tom Odell, which is not to be wished for.
All told, then, The Optimist is a serious record for our doomy times and is perhaps one best listened to at night, with a stiff drink in your hand and a serious expression on your face.
Listen to: Leaving it Behind, San Francisco, Can’t Let Go