The Optimist


Let me just quickly share my own personal thoughts about the latest Anathema release, called The Optimist. It was released on June 9th (by Kscope)

I’ve been a fan of this band – their music, for the better part of my life. Through all my life, there have been elements in their music that just spoke to me in a way no other band ever could. Though, let me admit, I was never a big fangirl of the musicians. It was just the music, the lyrics. It has nothing to do with the girls who love One Direction or Justin Bieber. And no, I am not judging, merely saying that it is different.

I digress. Back to the topic. The Optimist. It took until yesterday (June 19th) for this preordered record to arrive at my doorstep which strained my patience quite a bit. I didn’t listen to any songs while I was waiting, but I read the reviews. So many negative reviews. I wondered if it was the right decision to spend money on both the CD/DVD set and on the red vinyl. After all, people don’t seem to like the record very much. Me? I like it. I really do. While I was not a fan of their previous release (Distant Satellites), I have to say that this is a really good album. I don’t think that it can be compared to any of their previous work. I read in interviews that The Optimist is a sequel to A Fine Day to Exit. (An album I don’t particularly like or dislike – I don’t have a strong opinion on that one). It is in terms of the character who tried to find a way to exit and is now trying to find a way back home. Musically, it is not. Because, as I stated above, this album cannot be compared to any other album Anathema recorded.

So… The Optimist takes us on a journey. With pianos and guitars, with electronic aspects and string arrangements, we even hear some trombone in the jazzy Close Your Eyes. That trombone was certainly a surprise but it works in favour of the song. Just listen to some of Her Name is Calla’s songs (a British band), they use guitars, piano, strings and trombone too and it works well for them, in my own humble opinion.

Sure, the Optimist is a bit repetitive here and there (the vocals are and the melodies are sometimes too in some songs), but that repetivity is a constant in Anathema’s discography and it never bothered me. Also, I thought I heard some U2, some Radiohead (Wildfires), and even some Oasis (Back to the Start) influences on this album. Nice.
I like the heavy sound of the guitar, it sets a dark(er) mood. At the same time, there is a lot of hope and… optimism (duh!) on this record. For me, it is due to the strings and the piano. They can sound melancholic, but I don’t hear that here.

I wouldn’t recommend The Optimist to first-time Anathema listeners. It is not an easy record. There are many layers to peel away and to listen to. Too many? Is there such a thing as too many layers? My personal answer: No.

Lastly: in the many reviews I read Ghosts is often cited as a standout song. Personally, I think it is one of the weakest (alongside Wildfires) on the entire record. I like the lyrics, but that’s all I like about the song. Sorry.

My own standout song is The Optimist. (Followed by Leaving it Behind and Endless Ways). Can’t Let Go is a song I imagine could work on radio stations too… When I heard Springfield for the first time, I immediately thought that it would be nicer in an acoustic version… As for Close Your Eyes, I adore the arrangement of the song and even Lee Douglas’s voice. This style suits her.

Many words to say that I was afraid to listen to a bad record and I was positively surprised that it is not. It certainly isn’t easy to digest, though.

And now, the reason why I wrote this and will share it too: my inner music nerd was rejoicing when I listened to this brilliant record for the first time, but I still had the many negative reviews on my mind. (How devastating must it be for an artist when they invest time and creativity and emotions and money in their art and it is ripped apart?!) I needed to release my own personal thoughts and since there is no one in my immediate surroundings who feels as strongly about music as I do, I share it with you. And maybe you don’t care either but you will not hurt my emotions when you’re uninterested or rolling your eyes.

Thanks for reading and now go and search YouTube, iTunes or Spotify (or wherever you search for new music…) for this album and then go and buy it. 🙂 (And always remember that this little review was not written by a critic, I am merely someone who listens and likes music.)

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