Anathallo: Canopy Glow

Craig Carson
Photo: D Bracken

Although a step forward, Anathallo can't shake the Sufjan Stevens comparisons on Canopy Glow.


Canopy Glow

Label: Anticon
US Release Date: 2008-11-18
UK Release Date: 2008-11-24

Anathallo's sophomore release, Canopy Glow, leaves a feeling of something left undone. This album thematically concerned with death may describe a life unfinished: a life where great destinations sat on the horizon like an unreachable oasis. Like a snow-capped mountain on the highest windswept… you get the idea. These sentiments are the kind of wide-eyed wonderment Anathallo trades in, even when riffing on the darkest of concepts, on an occasionally intriguing but ultimately derivative album.

Canopy Glow offers several contradictions at the outset. For an album with a corpse on the front cover, the music is unexpectedly sunny. Bright horns bleat and cheery choruses swell and seem to remind us that death brings salvation. Although Anathallo has struggled to break from the "Christian band" tag, their music and imagery continues to revolve around existential/religious themes. The fact that hip-hop label Anticon released this album is another strange disconnection. Anathallo doesn't exactly mesh with the other artists on Anticon. This isn't necessarily a problem per se, but it does present questions of intent on both sides of the arrangement.

Existing in various combinations since 2000, Anathallo's persistent touring and incessant rehearsal have enabled a more fully-realized statement than their 2006 debut album Floating World. However, the band still sounds overstuffed with too many members and too few ideas. The songs here are shorter but overly dense with instrumentation. Does a band really need to use every single track available on ProTools? The glockenspiels and bells and other "unconventional" instruments on Canopy Glow fail to obscure the stitched-together feel of the tracks. For example, "Sleeping Torpor" begins with sparse piano chords, light acoustic strumming, and delicate vocals. When the rest of the band kicks in with multiple horns and crashing cymbals near the one-minute mark, it comes off as a bit awkward and forced. This is an unfortunate and reoccurring trend throughout the album. Anathallo are clearly a collection of capable musicians, but seem overly eager to throw everything into the mix all at once. The result is a band relying too heavily on bombastic gimmickry rather than studied restraint. True, the band has dialed back this tendency in comparison to Floating World, but the music on their latest still feels like a band struggling to edit themselves.

However, there are some genuinely successful moments on Canopy Glow that play to Anathallo's strengths. The interlocking boy-girl vocals on "Italo" and clacking percussion represent a satisfying interplay between the band's available resources without resorting to the type of gimmickry that hampers other tracks. In a similar vein, "The River" includes lyrics that provide the title for this record and find the band deftly balancing piano and vocal textures. Each member performing on "The River" has a clearly defined musical role that avoids feeling tacked-on.

Many have noted the obvious similarities between Anathallo and Sufjan Stevens. The marching band eclecticism, the Christian allusions, and the melodramatic scope are the primary intersections. This association weighs on Anathallo more than it does on Stevens. Anathallo occupies a lower position within this indie subgenre and within the general indie hierarchy. It seems that Anathallo is destined not to reach the level of adoration enjoyed by Stevens unless they truly differentiate themselves through their music. As of Canopy Glow, Anathallo may have refined their approach, but the move away from Stevens comparisons remains unfinished.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.