Welcome to day 19 of my ‘Album of the Year 2017 top 30 countdown’.
As the UK undergoes a ‘big freeze’, my traditional end-of-year series is beginning to hot up. It doesn’t seem like nineteen minutes since I started it, let alone nineteen days. But time, as they say, flies when you’re having fun. And I’m certainly having fun. It hasn’t been easy to put this all together but the payoff has been well worth it, with plenty of positive interaction along the way from readers and artist alike.
The biggest buzz is always when someone reads a post and discovers a new band in the process. This has happened a few times this year and I couldn’t be happier every time. This website was set up to bring as much great music as possible to the fore, so it’s great when it actually works.
As always, if you have missed any of the previous posts in this series, links can be found at the bottom of this post along with links to the entire countdowns from previous years.
“Never ones to shy away from experimentation, ‘The Optimist’ is yet another shift in Anathema’s own personal evolution. Whilst the core ingredients of atmosphere, emotional depth and lyrical eloquence are present and correct here, the output framed loosely by alternative/prog rock, has a much darker feel to it in general. There is also a more pronounced use of loops, electronic sounds and percussion that were hinted at within the title track on ‘Distant Satellites’.
‘The Optimist’ is not an instant fix, an immediate score of your favourite musical drug. What it is instead, is a multi-layered, multi-faceted record that demands time and effort on behalf of the listener to unlock its true potential. And when it unlocks…wow!
Once again, Anathema have delivered an album that is more to me than just a collection of beautifully and lovingly-crafted songs. It is an album that lives and breathes. It has a vibrancy, an intense raw honesty and a human depth that many strive to deliver but that very few succeed in achieving. Whether or not it ultimately surpasses the last couple of records in terms of my overall enjoyment, only time will tell. For now though, I am content to lose myself in ‘The Optimist’ via its aural magnificence and the emotional succour that it provides to this fragile and damaged soul.”
Read the full review here.
Given my well-documented love for Anathema, it seems a little strange to see their latest album as low as no.12 in my end-of-year list. It’s all relative of course because in a year as strong as 2017 has been, a top 12 finish should be applauded. But this is Anathema. One of my all-time favourite bands, Anathema are the band that released the masterpieces that are ‘Weather Systems’ and its follow-up, ‘Distant Satellites’. These finished no.1 and no.2 respectively in my lists of those years.
The first thing to say is ‘The Optimist’ is a fantastic album, a record that contains some stellar material that ranks with the Liverpudlians’ best. My review at the time of its release was suitably complimentary and I stand by the content.
I really like the way in which Anathema are keen, eager almost, to experiment with their sound. But what’s intriguing is the way in which the experimentation is married to a return to the past, with a reprise of the concept begun on ‘A Fine Day To Exit’. It makes for a fascinating listen and provides some possible answers to questions left hanging at the end of the aforementioned 2001 album.
The experimentation with sound sees a greater use of the electronics hinted at within ‘Distant Satellites’, something that I was uncertain of on a first listen. And, if I’m honest, I remain very undecided over the direction of a few of the tracks on this record – the smoky backstreet jazz overtones of ‘Close Your Eyes’ being the biggest example.
But a few minor misgivings do not detract from the fact that ‘The Optimist’ is another excellent release from one of the most important bands in my life.
Tracks like ‘Endless Ways’, ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Back To The Start’ contain all of the magic, poignancy and sophistication that are hallmarks of this incredible band. Almost effortlessly, they create a swell of strong emotions within me, making me feel as if they have written the songs for me and me alone. The very thought is ridiculous of course, but this connection that I and many others have with the music demonstrates most eloquently the near genius of the song writing.
What’s more, these tracks get better with time and increased familiarity. The old saying suggests that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. In the case of Anathema however, nothing could be further from the truth. As such, ‘The Optimist’ cannot fail to find its way into my affections and into my year-end ‘best of’ list.
If you missed either of my 2017 ‘honourable mentions’ posts, here they are should you be interested:
Previous posts in my 2017 Top 30 countdown:
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 13
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 14
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 15
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 16
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 17
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 18
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 19
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 20
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 21
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 22
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2017 – Number 30
And from previous years: