When I last caught up with Slade Echeverria (lead vocalist/bassist) of Anarbor, I could tell that the music he was about to release with his band felt fully-realized and matched his bandmates’ ultimate vision for where they could take their sound. Love & Drugs is a great collection of eleven songs that work well off of each other, and move the needle forward in the band’s storied discography that so many fans adore. This album hits somewhere between the pop polished rock of Walk the Moon, paired with the intricate focus on production like Bad Suns, while still maintaining the heart of the music that sounds like Anarbor.
The album starts off with the chill-sounding song of “Slow Distraction” that gradually invites the listener to be pulled into Echeverria’s vocal croon, while guitarist Danny Stravers keeps the riffs incredibly interesting. The layered vocals in the chorus make for a cool production element, and sound like a million bucks. “Letter In A Suitcase” brings the tempo up significantly in its delivery and allows for the band to shout above their instruments in the chorus before slowly exiting the aggressive tones as each hook unfolds. Lead single, “Drugs” reminded a bit of the quirky, synth-based pop of Smallpools, with equally-pleasing results. On the second verse, Echeverria explains, “A week away, I know my head should be straight / You got me strung out, I’m strung out / I need a fix / So would you pick up the phone, no one’s home / Is this the comedown, the comedown / That I heard about?” The way he describes the feeling of falling in and out of love is captivating, and really pulls the listener into the mix.
The album features very few misfires, and these moments don’t last long enough to distract from the overall excellence of the record. “Until I’m With You” was one of those songs that I had a tough time getting into, but I got roped right back into what Anarbor were going for on “Durango.” “Emergency” is another one of those tracks that remains memorable on repeat listens, and features some cool starts and stops to the vocal cadence, over an island-flavored beat.
”Honeymoon In Tokyo” is a song that I feel will be incredibly popular in the band’s live set. It sounds incredible from its opening notes, while the chorus of, ” In my mind forever / Honeymoon in Tokyo / Everybody wants to know what happens when we’re alone / Hands in my sweater / You’ve heard it on the radio / Everybody wants to know what happens when we’re alone,” hits all of the right notes and has “that sound” that is so popular right now. “Reason To Die” finds Anarbor exploring with the depths of their songwriting by tangling some interesting lyrical webs throughout their song, paired with layered vocal harmonies. “Don’t Call Me Back” is more of an atmospheric track that allows space to breathe, and be in the right frame of mind to be present in the music they are creating. The closing bars of the song are similar to what The 1975 have done, and Anarbor still make it sound like they are on the cutting edge of creativity here.
”Good Time” is certainly ready for its close-up as its vibrant guitar playing and dancefloor readiness is evident from the first listen. It sounds like a mix between early Foster the People paired with the frenetic vocal energy of Fitz and the Tantrums. Album closer, “Bad Love” reminds the audience of the pitfalls of falling in and out of love, and how the journey can lead to several twists and turns before finding its happy ending. Echeverria sings cautiously, “Didn’t take long for you to miss me / I’m like sugar in your coffee / Take a picture like a hobby / In the lake there’s another body / I never thought you’d be turning your back / Is this something that you’re proud of? / That’s just bad love / I’m not to blame for holding you back / Do you see how you act? / You’re so cold.”
Love & Drugs is a record that ultimately boils down to playing off modern influences while staying true to what the band has always wanted to accomplish. Anarbor make feel-good songs for the broken-hearted, and they still allow plenty of space for their fans to dance their troubles away as they navigate them from start to finish on this thrilling ride of an album.