It’s kind of funny that Anchor & Braille’s second album is titled The Quiet Life, since it’s anything but. While this collection of songs isn’t as in your face as Stephen Christian’s other band Anberlin, his latest effort with his side project is incredibly vibrant and varied. After proving that this project wasn’t just a retread of slower Anberlin-esque songs with his 2009 debut Felt, Christian’s eclectic musical interests is all over The Quiet Life. Reuniting with his other band’s former label Tooth & Nail, The Quiet Life takes what worked on Felt, refined it, and added in some new twists and turns to create one of the best releases Christian has ever been a part of.
The Quiet Life begins with the snappy electro-drum beat of “Goes Without Saying,” as Christian’s luscious vocals mesh immaculately with the song’s tender piano keys. It feels like it’ll be the perfect song for those crisp fall afternoons as it sets the tone for the album, incorporating a variety of tones, melodies, and sounds together. The instantly catchy “Knew Then Know Now” is triggered by more electronic glitches and keys, while the subdued “Find Me” showcases Christian’s classic croon over distant guitar tones.
Throughout the album, Christian and company (Kevin Dailey of Civil Twilight and Micah Tawlks join Christian this time around) explore different musical stylings. One minute Anchor & Braille is channeling its inner MUTEMATH on “In With The New,” only to follow it up with the somber “If Not Now When.” Now that Christian has one solo effort under his belt, he definitely seems more comfortable taking chances on The Quiet Life while making the album warmer and more intimate; inviting the listener into his psyche.
While Felt could feel like a chore to get through at times with its reliance on one tempo, The Quiet Life remains unpredictable. The aggressive “Kodachrome,” with its gritty guitar chords and industrial drum pace, breaks away from the general pristine nature of the album. And even though “Collapse” doesn’t move at a break neck speed, its swelling strings and Christian’s persistent vocals give the track a sense of urgency.
Anchor & Braille can still knock a ballad out of the park though – you’ll be transfixed immediately by the graceful “Hymn for Her.” Album closer “Before I Start Dreaming” slowly builds into a lovely outpouring of synth, horns, chords, and more (showing off the extreme talent of A&B’s contributors); concluding the album in a dream-like trance (as the title suggests).
Over the years, Stephen Christian has grown wiser, more aware of the world and industry around him. But instead of becoming jaded, he’s maintained his positive outlook on life, even if it isn’t perfect all the time. Some may mistake Anchor & Braille as Christian’s “soft side” when really it’s his outlet to showcase the type of musician he has become. It’s allowed Christian to rediscover that passion and sense of vulnerability again, and he achieves that with The Quiet Life – a chaotic beauty of an album as well as his most personal and eloquent effort to date.