Anderson Congress
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Anderson Congress

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Live review: Anderson Congress, Manhattan Love Suicides

Anderson Congress

I'm not sure how Anderson Congress got booked for an indie pop night at House of Shields. They make a refreshing antidote to all that is twee; it's as if a suicidal goth band got together to write punk songs, and thought it would be ironic to dress like hipsters for gigs. For their sound, think the noise of early Flaming Lips and the darkness of Roky Erickson.

What I like about them is that all the band members play an equally important role - the drumming and bass are just as unique as the vocals or lead guitar. Having said this, Jake Sinetos is clearly growing as a front man. His rock and roll posturing was a far cry from the early days of the band, when he would play sitting down. It's a good thing, because they're no longer playing to three people in the tiny back room of a bar.

They've added a new song to their set - "All of You" is a welcome change of pace from their usual darkly throbbing rhythms. It still has depressing lyrics, but is musically lighter with a danceable beat. If they can produce a few more songs like that one, they'll have a complex full-length album, and be well positioned to take off. - The Deli Magazine


Listening to the Anderson Congress self-titled EP, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Looking out across the contemporary musical landscape, I find too many bands are making boring versions of past styles of music - insipid indie pop that subscribes to the Chris Martin ethos of vapid false emotions served as easy pills to swallow, encompassed within a musical structure that pursues blandness as an ideology and that asks for no actual engagement. When it seems so many strive with such veracity to push the milestone of mediocrity in music, it is refreshing to hear a band the embraces complexity.

Anderson Congress is in many ways a noise-rock band. This classification is a difficult one to reconcile, as for many the burdens of noise so often outweigh the interesting aspects. The balance between accessibility and musician masturbation is tenuous at best. However, between their pop melodies and raging feedback-laced solos, Anderson Congress have found a reasonable place to stand within this dichotomy on this EP. The effect of this is to create an album space that begs you to actually listen to the music. This is not the background to your aspirations towards the platitudes of the vacant and undemanding ideal of love promised to you by yellow stars; this is not your elevator music.

"It All Falls Apart" opens the EP with an ethereal intro that promptly kicks off into a driving rock song while still maintaining its otherworldly feel, balancing between jagged rhythm guitar strokes and echo-y feedback-infused solo work. This song embodies what seems to be the general musical feel of the album: teetering between heavy rock ("Reflections," "O'Where to Begin", "Her") and the pensive and eerie ("Quit this Mess," "Love Away"). This balancing helps to foster strong dynamics within the album structure.

Lyrically, "It All Falls Apart" showcases another strength of the album. As a love song, "Falls Apart" does not give you hearts and flowers love, it gives you a real life portrait of relationships – the constant battles to maintain no matter how much love there happens to be. Love is work, love is reconciling adversity, "love is the strangest thing" when faced with a crumbling life. Lyrical complexity is the theme of this EP. Another great example of this is the song "Her." A pounding song that exhibits strong influences from Nick Cave, "Her" angrily confronts from a third party perspective a crumbling self-destructive relationship. Simultaneously preaching doom, "Her" reassures us in a calming way that we should not worry, things will be all right.

While discussing lyrics it seems pertinent to mention lead singer Jake Sinetos' vocal style. Sinetos in no way has what is generally classified as a "good voice." This is not to say that his voice is bad, it is just unconventional. Rock and roll history has seen a number of these voices. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Joe Strummer have all had academically bad voices, but they are essential to what they do. Not to equate Sinetos to these iconoclasts, but if Anderson Congress stays around long enough to become a household name, Sinetos' singing will undoubtedly be compared as such; it is unique and necessary to Anderson Congress' sound.

Thematic and style analysis aside, I think my favorite song on the album would have to be "Reflections" (close second being "Her"). Listening to the song, "Reflections" speaks directly to my better punk-rock angles, and when it kicks off I can't help but want to shove and slam against a group of equally enthusiastic listeners. The lead guitar lines recall the country influenced-punk of bands like the Violent Femmes and Against Me! "Reflections" is high-energy, compact, and best illustrates the band's uncompromising ability to rock.

The weakest part of the album, I have to admit, is the last song "Love Away." This may be a particularly nit-picky bit of criticism, as it is not a bad song - just when considered with the rest, it measures up a bit short. Power-rock like this can't help but be epic in one way or another. This album is certainly epic; however, "Love Away" just goes a little bit too far. It has something of a feeling of being in a stadium and I wonder if that's where Anderson Congress wants to be. Part of me still likes it for its odd tenderness, and I think it's a good vamp out of the album, but next to the strengths of the others it's not quite there (pining for things to criticize, I'm sure).

Ultimately, this is a wonderful album because it wants me to actually listen to it. There are complexities to the songs that you don't just have access to in the first five seconds. On my third and fourth listen I'm still finding new things that intrigue me. This is a quality that makes an album strong. When I constantly am turning the volume up so that the music is my only sensory experience, and so I can explore the depths of the song and not just reside in its superficiality, a band has succeeded. Anderson Congress' self-titled EP is available through their Myspace. I encourage you to listen, and turn it up. - The Deli Magazine


Discography

Self Titled - 2009
you can here it on college radio and futureperfectradio.com

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Bio

Jake Sinetos first began playing music under the Anderson Congress moniker in 2003, playing dark experimental music as part of the 'Under the Radar' group of musicians'. After two years of solo work he moved to the UK in 2005, living in Leeds and changing his focus from sample and key based music to more guitar-based compositions. It was here that he recruited Amyas Varcoe. With Jake on rhythm guitar and vocals and Amyas on lead the two began to play gigs as a two-piece, both contributing to the songs. As the two continued to play gigs around Leeds, they realized they needed to bolster their sound with a larger band, and so drafted in drummer Lucy Canter (of 'The Seven Inches' and 'Kill Manticore') and bassist Adam John Miller ('The Manhattan Love Suicides' and 'The What I Wanted to Dos'). Now backed by a full band, Jake and Amyas continued to write and record, using their band as a way to explore more complex and experimental sounds whilst still keeping the dark, melodic mood to their music. Slots supporting 'The Gris Gris' and 'Downdime' in Leeds, as well as several headline gigs of their own, allowed them to test their material in front of larger audiences. In 2007 Amyas joined Jake in SF and they began playing together as a duo again. After a few months Amyas left the band and returned to the UK. Jake then recruited Nick Sinetos ('Alas Alak Alaska') to play guitar, H. A. Eugene (Burbank International) to play bass and Chris Lindsey to drum. Anderson Congress now with a louder punkier edge to their music have released their debut album and playing regularly throughout the US.