It’s been a turbulent time since the release of the last Anna’s Anchor album, the ambitious ‘A Glorious Ruction’ with mainstay Marty Ryan moving to the US to pursue a PhD in music education. As if that wasn’t a big enough of a life transition for him, a freak accident saw Ryan suffering a traumatic head injury not long after his move.
Thankfully, Ryan has fully recovered from the incident, but initial fears of memory loss fuelled a writing frenzy to capture key personal memories, from which this impressive record has evolved. Joining him again on ‘The Merries’ are Brian Scally on drums and Claire O’Brien on backing vocals, O’Brien has proved to be an inspired addition to the Anna’s Anchor collective and here she even takes on the lead role on album closer, the sublime Closing Credits, a move that perfectly illustrates the expanding nature and community feel of the band, which pays off brilliantly.
There are numerous highlights throughout the long player, particularly the impressive three-song run from the carefree childhood reminiscence of Nothing Happened Today, to Listowel an urgently propulsive track inspired by the earliest of musical stirrings, before Function Room Floor delivers a simply majestic sweeping indie anthem to teenage awkwardness “If we met when we were kids I think that this might have been it“.
Elsewhere there is the non-too subtle dig at the Catholic Church on Knock which sees Dermot Sheedy of Hermitage Green join on bodhrán to add to a ferociously cacophonous coda, the anger is palpable. I Never Felt That Way is a very tongue-in-cheek repost to those who talk down about their home when abroad, proving that you can take the man out of Limerick, but you can’t take the Limerick out of the man.
A key evolution of the Anna’s Anchor sound has been the increasing use of synths and keys which add a superbly expansive texture to Ryan’s power pop driven guitar, executed sublimely on Hotel Dom Pancho, a delightfully dreamy ode to a sun-filled time with friends before the responsibilities of life took over “There was no going to sleep, we all had each other”.
‘The Merries’ may have been an album born out of what could have been a horrific life-altering event, but the fourth studio album from Anna’s Anchor is a glorious exploration of memory set to the subtly evolving sound of a band who’s growing confidence bursts through triumphantly.