The Staves
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The Staves

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""I don't know what the heck this is""

Soren Anders must get a smirky kick out of CD reviewers, because he makes it next to impossible for us to classify his music. I had the same problem about a year or so ago when I reviewed the CD by his band Shimmerplanet. It was one of my favorite CDs of the year, but finding myself at a loss for words for the genre, I wound up having to classify it as "avant-garde rock." Which is reviewer-speak for "I don't know what the heck this is."

I was just going to file Anders' solo offering under "singer/songwriter," but that puts him in the same category as folk singers, which he definitely is not, and Americana, protest songs, and other stuff that he isn't. When I look at these six haunting, sophisticated songs as a whole, I would call it "classical virtuoso avant-garde pop," but I know "virtuoso" is not an adjective, and I have to present a clearly-defined genre for the appropriate field in this review, so I can just hear Anders snickering as I wimp out and call it "avant-garde singer/songwriter." Fine. I can forgive him for putting me in this spot. The music makes his constant teasing very forgivable. Although I'd love to know what we writers ever did to him.

If you are a fan of Shimmerplanet, put aside everything you already know about Soren Anders, and let's start again. This EP is more for people who preferred Rufus Wainwright's "Want Two" album to the more commercially praised "Want One." Orchestral, intelligent, and in the case of the opening track "I Know a Hundred Ways to Die," inspired by the poetry of a Pulitzer Prize-winning bisexual bohemian poet. I think Wainwright would love to add this EP to his collection.

These songs are a study in contrasts. Simple, yet intellectually challenging. Gloomy, yet beautiful. Artistically sophisticated, yet starkly presented with such stripped-down production that it sounds like Anders is whispering right in your ear.

The music on all these tracks is done with a quiet orchestra: strings, piano, and on some tracks, a chorus. Yet the lyrics are not polite. Sometimes, especially in contrast to the elegant music, they can be somewhat jarring. In "Ways to Die," for example, over the gentle bell tones and crystalline lullaby sounds, he takes lyrics from Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry about wanting to commit suicide but not wanting to cause a big cleanup for someone else in the process. In the musically smoother and warmer "Want Nothing," we get cryptic, uncomfortable lyrics about embracing emptiness. On first listen, it sounds like an appropriate theme song for the anti-consumerism movement, but after a while, you realize that Anders is not exactly embracing spirituality either. The song is a totally overwhelmed response to the whole holiday season, rejecting the gifts and gaudiness but not sure how to approach the true meaning, either.

The problem with sticking to the orchestral sounds all the way through is that after a while, they do start to sound the same. I do think this collection needs at least one track with a different instrument or tempo to pull me out of the hypnosis after the first few tracks. But this still works. The effect is still with me, and I turned off the CD player almost an hour ago.

Anders is truly passionate about his music, and if that means going with the inspiration and refusing to make my job easier to sticking to a particular genre, so be it. I'll be waiting with great interest for the next offering, and if I wind up having to call it something like "avant-garde country western," at least I know he'll make the listening experience more than worth it. - Indie-Music.com


""...a lovely little minimal ditty""

Soren Anders is an NYC singer-songwriter who used to be the lead singer of a band called Shimmerplanet, whom I’ll admit I’ve never heard of. This is a lovely little minimal ditty, though I actually prefer the remix called “Proof Conjecture Reborn” on his MySpace page. - Mojo Republik


""Artistic courage"..."a true poet""

It takes artistic courage to be this lyrically honest and musically experimental. Shimmerplanet is a collection of artists but mainly songwriter Soren Anders and vocalist Carolyn Eufrasio. They trade off on lead vocals. The music is filled with strings and deep grooves and a bit of playfulness (Anders is credited with, among other instruments, a toy piano). The lyrics sound like Anders passed every high school vocab test with flying colors. From the opening track "Silence of Midnight":
It's getting late and I am exacerbated ... I've debated and debated this debasement; no abatement, I hate it ...

If every song were like this, the album would be extremely pretentious. But Anders shows a sense of humor quite often, even if it's a sardonic one. My favorite track is "Easy," sung by Carolyn, a look at love connections in the modern world set to a hot Latin beat and flavored with dancing string arrangements:

I put my picture on a public site It went live only last night. Today my box is full! My love life is on a roll! Can't wait 'til Wednesday for the latest copy ...

Every song has a different approach, from the funky/R&B "On My List" to the beat-poetry feel of the delicate "Cool Web." I liked the lovely classical composition entitled "Everyone Says You Love Me But You."

Again and again, I kept opening the CD booklet to double-check the lyrics to make sure they were saying what I thought they were saying. Anders is a true poet, and his strongest lyrical work shows in "Author," a song about wanting to literally rewrite his childhood. I love the line, "If you were a character, I'd make you minor, a paragraph from hello to goodbye."

This is an album of intelligent compositions -- a few radio-friendly, the rest boldly not so. Strongly recommended.


Jennifer Layton Indie-Music.com - Indie-Music.com


"Winner - independent Music Award"

Anders' band Shimmerplanet won the Vox Populi Award "Best Pop/Rock Song" for the Shimmerplanet track "Author". - Independent Music Award


""A Breakthrough Creatively""

It is made clear that Shimmerplanet sets out with their latest release, "For The One Who Kills Tomorrow", to record an album unlike anything on the market today....


Is it rock, is it folk, is it classical? These are the questions I tried to answer while listening to this record. After several tries, I have concluded that this album exceeds all categories....


Overall, this album is a breakthrough creatively and if you are sick of being able to accurately predict an entire album after hearing the first song, then "For The One Who Kills Tomorrow" will definitely be the answer to your long awaited prayers.


Written By: Candice Mays for the Evolution of Media - Evolution of Media


""Something of a masterpiece..." The Last Leaf Of Autumn EP Review"

Taking time off from Shimmerplanet, Soren Anders has veered off into a new solo career starting off with a couple EP’s all which have been great so far. The Last Leaf of Autumn has been the best by far with lyrics and a melody that seems to calm and relax the mind.

The lyrics are by far one of the best aspects of the EP, if you take the time to actually listen to them you can feel how heartfelt and how poetic they really are. Each of the three tracks are written superbly and it’s shown through his past awards including some right from The Songwriters Hall of Fame. This not only shows that he has a knack for writing but that he can incorporate it in such a way that plays poetically and works in sync with his vocals to create something of a masterpiece.

The music itself is very calm and soothing. Listening to any of the three tracks will help you drift off from the stresses of life and just put you in state of relaxation that is so intoxicating you will never truly want to leave. The slow paced tone, along with the incorporation of piano, violins, vocals and lyrics, all work together so beautifully that it creates this tone of soothing calmness. You basically feel as though you could just drift off and never wake up.

The use of violin and piano must also be noted upon. They’re played masterfully throughout the EP and Soren Anders shows that he’s not only a great writer but a great instrumentalist at the same time. Mastering both piano and violin is no easy task but for Soren Anders it sounds as if it’s as easy as scribbling on paper.

His vocals are another big highlight of the EP as it’s yet another thing Soren Anders excels at. He hits almost every pitch precisely and perfectly and has an entrancing style of vocals that yet again puts your mind at ease. His vocals work so beautifully with his lyrics that it’s as if a story is unfolding within your mind and you don’t even know it.

One of the greatest examples of everything working so perfectly together in melodic harmony would have to be upon the track A Thorn In The Side Of A Boy. If there was to be one single off of this EP it would be this track. The piano and violin are played so clearly beautifully and so distinct it’s hard not to take notice of them. The vocals hit each note perfectly and takes on a multitude of pitches that seems to put one’s soul at piece. The lyrics are also written so poetically that it creates such imagery and evokes so much imagination it’s literally as if you’re not even in your own living room anymore.

The only downside to this EP is literally that there are only three whole tracks which although are all very beautiful, it ends up leaving you wanting more. There just isn’t enough on this EP to warrant a masterpiece, but if there was more to work with and listen to I could say with confidence that I believe the entire album would make for an instant classic.

Another downside is that although Soren Anders is very talented, he doesn’t seem to take very risks with the EP. He stays in one place playing a slow paced sort of musical styling and does not further anything to another style. It seems as though that he feels safe within this one styling and does not want to risk doing anything more fast paced or a bit edgier for fear of ruining what he has succeeded with so far. There’s always room for change and I think if he could switch up the pace a bit and tune into other styling he could break free of his one set mind track and attract a much wider audience with his solo career.

Overall The Last Leaf Of Autumn is a huge leap forward for Soren Anders in his venturing into the solo scene, and could end up becoming very huge once he releases a full album. Everything from instruments, to vocals, to lyrics are all beautiful, masterful, and inspiring. It evokes such imagery and sets a tone of such relaxation that I believe that if he keeps to all of this he will go on to even more success in coming years. This is a great start for Soren Anders and I highly recommend checking out this The Last Leaf Of Autumn as well as his other EP’s and hopefully we’ll have a full studio release to look forward to soon.
- AWmusic (Canada)


"Consistently give(s) me goosebumps"

There are very few artists that consistently give me goosebumps. There are even fewer that happen to be based so close to home. New York’s Soren Anders positively fits within this elite category. Over the last year, his stunning vocals and heartbreakingly beautiful melodies have won me over in a major way. For his most recent performance, Soren handed out tiny daisies (a la Morrissey’s former gladiola obsession) to each & every attendee just before playing his glorious cover of ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’. Fantastic! Visit Soren Anders on MySpace. Watch ‘The Thorn In The Side Of A Boy’ here. - The Music Slut Blog


Discography

The Staves (album)
All Surprises (album)
The Last Leaf Of Autumn (EP)
I Know A Hundred Ways To Die (EP)
I Know...(reborn) (EP)

Featured on MTV's Logo Network (Top 10 for 3 months)

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Bio

"Simple, yet intellectually challenging. Gloomy, yet beautiful. Artistically sophisticated, yet starkly presented...." (Indie-music.com)

*2010 Nominee: Independent Music Awards (Best Cover Song - "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now")*

The Staves compose and perform an original concoction of string-heavy chamber music and avant-garde pop. The band is comprised of Soren Anders (vocals and piano), Kai Gross (bass, vocals, piano), Christopher Heinz (drums), Cynthia Marcus (violin, vocals) and JR Pinna (cello, vocals). The Staves will release their latest album, which includes their IMA-nominated cover of The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, in October, 2010.

In the past year, the Staves’ “Thorn in the Side Of A Boy” music video debuted on MTV’s LOGO network and was voted into the network’s Click List Top 10 for three consecutive months. Their music has garnered international airplay particularly in Belgium and Great Britain. The Staves’ song “All Surprises” was chosen as the title track for a compilation album released by the "The Curve Ball" show on Britain's 101.8 WCR FM.

As members of the burgeoning chamber pop scene in New York City, The Staves are excited to see the explosion of traditionally orchestral instruments infiltrating indie rock. It seemed to the Staves however, that these instruments were underutilized, so The Staves set themselves apart by showcasing the virtuosic possibilities of their instruments.

Individually, members of The Staves have collaborated with Chris Stein (of Blondie), Menomena, Ramona Falls, Shayna Zaid & The Catch, and Lesley Gore, and worked with Jay Black & The Americans, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and the members of the Vienna Philharmonic. They have performed at concert halls in NY and around the world at events and venues including the Salzburg Festival, La Fenice Opera House, and Carnegie Hall. Their compositions have been aired on the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and MTV’s “The Real World”.

"There are very few artists that consistently give me goosebumps. New York's Soren Anders [of The Staves] positively fits within this elite category. Over the last year, his stunning vocals and heartbreakingly beautiful melodies have won me over in a major way...." (The Music Slut Blog)