Under Review

It’s 4:25 AM in the midst of a dead quiet night, my insomnia acts as a gateway to my initial exposure to apples’ debut album, About the Future. I gingerly drop the needle on the record (pressed on purple vinyl) and I advance. Starting with the opening, and in fact title, track from this late 2021 release: the morbidly melancholy “About the Future.” A thick, lush and layered musical landscape is my cursory impression of apples’ tasty offering. I am gently whisked away and consumed from the get go. The leadoff track catches me, and is many things, including but not limited to: blissful, electric and haunting. The first lines of the first song set the tone, and how could they not? “The worst is yet to come on the coldest night / A homeless drift across the earth / For the better part of a century has come and gone.” Lead vocalist Liz Read continues… “The horizon twists, it begins to spin/ You surrender everything to rust / And in the ashes, in the tawny dust / You would talk about the future for the first time.” WOW!

The group is British Columbia based, and this is their fourth release and first full length album (preceded by 2017 and 18’s Called Grace, A Note of Thanks and songs from maybe island). The band is tagged as rock, indie rock, pop rock, psych and shoegaze, and I question if our obsession with genre labelling has really run its course? 

It’s now about 4:30 AM as I glance at the tick-tock of the clock as the second song unwinds. “Wave/Crow,” a slightly wordy jaunt, masterful and dripping with prettiness and clarity. Track three, “Called Grace,” is a little less reflective, sprinkled with pop overtones as it elevates pace and tempo. Leading into “Hyacinths,” a song that begins with a dirty, deep, throaty guitar riff:  “Come a darkening horizon / Come steady rain / We’re losing daylight / But it’s so obvious I see yr lighthouse grin.” Lyrically there is clearly a darkness unfolding with a pinch of hope. 

The journey is near complete as I melt into the last three tracks on the album. Again glancing at the time, it’s now 4:45 AM, on the fringes of another Vancouver morning. “The Every River Song” seems soft and spiritual, the modern-bluesy “Rage On, Apolitical” stops, hops and starts, and we round it all up with the anthemic “Loose to the World.” The intro to this final effort (and for me strongest song) reminds one of the classic Doors epic “The End,” and then all comparisons cease. The song unfolds in an apple inspired, sort of juicy fashion, with a catchy blending of an echoey double-tracked vocal. A triumphant, glorious conclusion to an already strong record indeed. I now flirt with 5am. Time to fade into the rarity of sleep and dream About the Future and whoever and whatever it may hold.

“But 5am finds you outside my door, talkin non-stop/ We steal hyacinths from the gardens of my neighbors/ And we drown the clock” — Todd McCluskie

You’re driving back home after a long day, watching the sun sink low into the road ahead of you. Not feeling much of anything, you deliberately make yourself sad by thinking about a long lost lover or some other dramatic thing you manage to pull out, just to make yourself feel like the main character in a movie. Now, a movie isn’t complete with a good score, and any track off of Anodyne’s Fleeting Hand will be a more than suitable pick for the song that plays during this overdramatic, wistful scene.

Anodyne is a Vancouver based trio, and with Fleeting Hand being their first effort, they seem to have already developed a sound that they’re fully comfortable with. In “Back in the Rain” you’re presented with what sounds like a pretty standard indie track at the start, but then a slide guitar comes out of nowhere. It sounds a bit jarring on paper, but it’s an addition that adds a fresh element to the tracks that include it. On top of that, twangy Nashville guitar licks fill in the gaps, keeping things interesting. The addition of the slide guitar and licks straight out of a Willie Nelson song add some country flair into a pretty standard indie instrumental, creating something that’s both familiar and unexpected at the same time — an already nostalgic sound made even more so by sprinkling in the blues.

However, the lyrics on Fleeting Hand are its strongest suit. Each track’s lyrics focus on a different concern that anyone transitioning into adulthood will relate to, compiling them into a scrapbook of worries. The descriptions are deeply personal, but not specific enough that it becomes alienating, allowing the listener to insert themselves easily into any of the lyrics. The existential crisis inducing “Highway Hunger” details the pithole of mediocrity many of us will find ourselves in and lays it bare for all to see. “Backyard Shrink” is a particularly impactful track, as Anodyne feels the guilt of being helpless when you can’t afford to be. “Watch your shadow make its way across the floor / But I don’t know enough to be sure that all is right” puts the burden of worrying about someone else’s worries into such digestible words that any listener can recall a moment they felt the same way.

Fleeting Hand is a greatest hits compilation of the fears, doubts, and worries that hang over anyone coming of age, made so much better by an eccentric mix of indie rock and country that just works. So, for the times when you want to feel like the main character in a wistful movie scene, this album is an immediate go-to.

— Marcus Fung