Anders & Kendall
(Nine Mile Records)
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
A lot of debut projects suffer from excessive showiness, which is understandable in a climate where so much music gets released that it’s a battle to be heard. That’s why one of the most refreshing things about Wild Chorus, the first ever album-length collaboration from Anders Parker and Kendall Meade, is how the two never seem to be trying too hard.
Maybe that’s because the pair are veterans of the indie rock scene and have been a part of many projects in the past. The chemistry they display on the new album suggests a duo that has been playing together for years.
Anders & Kendall share the labor just about 50/50 on the record, right down to the songwriting duties. Many of the songs are true duets with the pair singing every line in harmony, as they luxuriate in musical settings that range subtly from rootsy genres to lo-fi rock. The pace never gets too frenetic; these two perform as if they have no better place to be than leaning into microphones together.
The laid-back vibe is evident right from the start. Opening song “We’re On Fire, Babe” has a title that suggests a passionate inferno, but the low-key music is more of a steady burn. Don’t mistake the easy feeling of the music for simplicity though. “Let’s Get Lost” features some nifty countermelodies ringing above the low rumble of the rhythm section, while “Across The Years” changes pace from a lazy lope to an effortless gallop without any signs of strain.
The lyrics of Anders & Kendall are of a piece with the musical settings in that they are unfussy yet leave a lasting impression. Many of the songs speak of bonds that remain unbroken even as relationships fracture. “Play It” is an ode to the wonder of music, and the dreamy background atmosphere only proves the point. On “Dreamers On The Ground,” full of gleaming West Coast harmonies, the duo sings “We are the missing pieces, the things that won’t get found,” with the implication being that they are just fine with that.
Even the more melancholy songs, sighing ballads like “Sleepwalking” and “Oh, Love,” don’t get wallow in sadness. In part, that’s due to Meade’s lovely vocals, which have the ability to simultaneously project heartbreak and gratitude.
In the final song, “The Sun Will Shine Again Someday,” the outside world finally dares to intrude on the cocoon of peace that the rest of the album has created. The song speaks of “lost and loyal friends,” while Parker sings, “Times are hard for dreaming eyes.” Yet the hopefulness of the title eventually works its way through the darkness, the healing power of music at work again.
The album does a wonderful job of creating and sustaining its mood. People looking for something a little bit more flashy or bold-faced from their music should probably look elsewhere. Anders & Kendall might return to their peripatetic career paths following this, but Wild Chorus is good enough to be the start of a beautiful musical relationship.