Under Review

Under Review: Stay Positive, Anchoress

Todd McCluskie

Anchoress (ˈæŋ kər ɪs)
1. A punk band formed in 2010, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
(so reads the definition on their official website)

I have known of Vancouver’s “post-punk heroes” Anchoress for a few years now, thanks to a couple hardcore tracks that I’ve found delicously sinister — “She-Devil” and “Grease Fire,” both lifted off 2013’s Set Sail LP. The (newly) five piece ensemble released their latest and fourth album, Stay Positive, on March 25, 2022 through Early Onset Records. 

The nine song collection begins with the instrumental title track “Stay Positive.” The uneventful opener comes in at 1:09 and essentially serves as a precursor for the next offering, the robust and jittery “Anxious Hum.”. Musically, intermingling guitar work between Keenan Federico and Phil Jones is most notable, and lyrically “Anxious Hum” sets the album’s distorted tone — “It took me a long time / But I’m figuring out why / My success always feels like a crime”

The blistering “Peace Lines” goes for it at full sonic tilt, for a fleeting moment featuring a guitar run reminiscent of Tony Iommi of the legendary Black Sabbath. The ambitious “Middle Management at the Money Factory” is a mild departure, but still pure Anchoress fare. The fifth cut, the dreamy, slightly slower paced “An Old Wolf” breaks things up a tad until we kick it into a familiar high gear at about the midway mark of the song. We progress with the instrumental “Canadian Pastoral,” a dramatic droner with a hint of reflective piano that gives us distance and prepares us for the aggression that awaits. The catchy “Hydrodynamic” returns to the more familiar Anchoress sound, and is easily the sleeper college radio chart topper. The second to last song, “Psychobabble,” is the obligatory deep cut of heaviness (my interest is briefly piqued by a guitar part reminiscent of the late B52’s Ricky Wilson). As the ruckus persists, we transcend into the epic final track “The Futurist.” Stretched out to 7:35, “The Futurist” features a more subdued vocal approach that gives the track a hidden layer — the essence of the group still reverberates but with a thicker, more melodic angle. The entire album leads us to this desperate moment and final cut — it fails to disappoint.

Lyrically the record is charcoal grey — “Change will come / Like it always does/ The future will arrive / No matter how hard you fight / You’re trying to hold back the dawn / Because you profit off the night.” Ultimately the theme is timely — set against the backdrop of the world pandemic, the loss, the suffering, and the alienation of these opaque clouds remain clear. And If your brave new post-pandemic world appears a little too obscured and gloomy, heed Anchoress’ primary message: Stay Positive and remember…

“It’s okay to ask for help / When your sun doesn’t shine”