Every now and then an album comes along that catches me by surprise, this week it’s the turn of Stephen Steinbrink. His new album ‘Anagrams’ only recently appeared on my radar as a result of my ongoing and endless search for new music. Admittedly 2014’s ‘Arranged Waves’ didn’t even enter my circle of listening at the time, but it did mark the moment Steinbrink attracted more attention beyond his close and devoted fan circles. Listening to ‘Anagrams’ I would be very surprised if his career doesn’t continue to move on upward.
First listening to the likes of ‘Absent Mind’, ‘What Identity?’ and title-track ‘Anagrams’ hits me with a feeling of déjà vu for a couple of reasons. One, because Steinbrink’s sound is one that occasionally feels like it’s from a different era of music. Two, because it joins a shortlist of artists who I have not previously paid much attention to and proceed to release an album which presses my “instant musical euphoria”, or “IME”, button. The War On Drugs with 2014’s ‘Lost In The Dream’ and Death Cab For Cutie with 2015’s ‘Kintsugi’ feature on this list.
What strikes me is how upbeat this album sounds alongside darker inspiration for the lyrics.
However, I think ‘Anagrams’ stands proudly as a much more consistent project. Steinbrink shows a mature songwriting ability and manages to keep the experience interesting throughout. I find the heavy chord progression of ‘Psychic Daydream’ just as satisfying as the plucked notes of ‘Shine a Light on Him’.
What strikes me is how upbeat this album sounds alongside darker inspiration for the lyrics. Dealing with topics such as addiction, depression and fraught relationships with an optimistic sound and calculated arrangement creates a much more engaging collection of material.
Stephen Steinbrink should be very proud of what he’s made here. ‘Anagrams’ might be one of my favourite alternative releases this year.
By Will Hunt
Upbeat yet lyrically dark
Intimate but occasionally spacious
‘Absent Mind’ a favourite
Listen to ‘Absent Mind’ by Stephen Steinbrink below:
|1. Absent Mind|
|2. Building Machines|
|3. Psychic Daydream|
|4. Impossible Hand|
|5. What Identity?|
|7. I’m Turning Inside Out|
|8. Dissociative Blues|
|10. Black Hole/We Don’t Say Anything|
|11. Shine a Light on Him|
|12. Next New Sun|