Stay Positive (Early Onset)
Sometimes all you can do is breathe slowly and deeply to get through it all, that reality—based on the aptly named Stay Positive—not lost on Anchoress.
Written in the shadow of a pandemic that fucked with the heads of, well, almost everyone, the band’s fourth full-length is its most meditative outing yet. Having a rough 24 hours, week, decade, or life? Singer Rob Hoover understands, using the distortion-sheened “Anxious Hum”, to howl “Today has been a good day/I wish they could all be like this/But when you struggle with anxiety/It’s hard to stay positive.”
But hard as that might be, Anchoress is at least up to the challenge, with Hoover sounding surprisingly at peace with it all on the pop-centric “Hydrodynamic”, where he sings “Here I am holding hands with the great unknown/I got too comfortable where I was/I got too used to a too similar view.” Change is good indeed good, especially if it pulls you out of a place where the black days never seem to end.
As far as Anchoress goes, changes include the band’s expansion to a five-piece, with new member Phil Jones joining Keenan Federico to make a two-guitar attack, the back end held down by bassist Ricky Castanedo and drummer Chris Lennox-Aasen.
The quintet still describes itself as a “punk band formed in 2010, based in Vancouver”, but that’s become a little misleading. There are moments on Stay Positive that hit as thrillingly hard as Wendy Thirteen’s Cobalt on a killer Saturday night—“Peace Lines” kicks off like a proto-metal cage fight between the Jesus Lizard and Big Black, while “Psychobabble” sticks the landing between angular agit-punk and gang-chant hardcore.
But Anchoress also showcases itself as a band that’s done an admirable job of evolving. Stay Positive kicks off with the dream-hazed slo-core instrumental “Stay Positive” and ends with the seven-minute-long November-skies dirge “The Futurist”. In between the group proves as adept at scream-tinted emo (“Middle Management at the Money Factory”) and it does lumbering, gauze-wrapped post-rock (“Canadian Pastoral).
The ultimate takeaway from Stay Positive—besides that is that Anchoress continues to be one of Vancouver’s most criminally underrated bands? How about this: there are moments that somehow seem important, including the “Psychobabble” lines “Breathe in, breathe out/You’re out once again in a crowd/Your internal narrator’s way too loud.”
Not only are you not alone, but Anchoress seems to understand.