“My dad would play me a lot of early aughts power pop/indie music, and I was really looking to stuff like Fountains Of Wayne and Death Cab For Cutie. But I was also listening to Pianos Become The Teeth.” That’s Anxious guitarist and backup singer Dante Melucci telling Brooklyn Vegan about some of bands he was listening to while recording the Connecticut band’s debut album Little Green House. Before I turn to dust upon learning this adult musician discovered Death Cab through his father, I would like to identify this as a helpful rubric for understanding his band’s music — particularly that push and pull between Fountains’ unrelentingly catchy power-pop and Pianos’ soaring, melodramatic post-hardcore.
Anxious end up somewhere in the middle. In short, they are an emo band — you can tell because their album has a house on the cover (see also: recent Album Of The Week honorees Worst Party Ever) — with a take on the genre that manages to be both ferocious and fearlessly commercial. Although initially inspired by hoarse, hearty ’90s underground heroes like Texas Is The Reason, they’ve applied a “sugar-coating” to their sound this time around without losing that rocket-fueled urgency. As explained by Andrew Sacher, who conducted that Brooklyn Vegan interview, Anxious were among the “next Title Fight” contenders upon the release of their buzz-building Never Better EP for Boston hardcore hub Triple B Records in 2019. But with Little Green House, out this week on Run For Cover, they’re instead applying for the role of “next Jimmy Eat World.”
If that feels like hyperbole, it’s only because it’s difficult to imagine a rock band on an independent label ramping up to Jimmy Eat World world-domination scale in 2022. Even at a time when pop stars are embracing rock and punk with renewed vigor, a group with genuine underground roots seems limited to maybe one big TikTok smash if they’re lucky. But Little Green House offers up quite a few contenders for that kind of viral ubiquity, tracks that sparkle at least as intensely as they roar. Some bands of this ilk would be content to bash out some power chords and call it a day, but Little Green House boasts inspired arrangements that make dainty arpeggios and throat-shredding fury feel like outgrowths of the same entity. Singles like “Call From You” and “In April” stack up hooks upon hooks — in the form of guitar riffs, vocal melodies, even drum fills — until they spill over into euphoria.
Not that Anxious songs are happy, exactly. Like so many of the best emo bands, they channel negative emotions into moments of shout-along transcendence. Sometimes that means letting go of those bad vibes — “And today we’re moving on from the emptiness I sit in since you’ve gone!” — or at least accepting that which is out of their control: “Feeling something’s leaving/ I can’t change what’s happening.” Often, it entails the kind of interpersonal drama that typifies young romance: “How could you know/ To hold me as something more than a friend/ But less than someone you can depend.” Lead singer and guitarist Grady Allen, who also plays guitar in the powerhouse melodic hardcore band One Step Closer, usually is more of a pop singer than that band’s chief howler Ryan Savitski, but he’s just as capable of guttural growling when the songs call for it. It’s just that even those outbursts often hit like hooks when Anxious are letting it rip.
Like so many albums dropping early this year, Little Green House has been completed for a while. Originally, the plan was for Anxious to spend most of 2020 on the road building upon the Never Better buzz, but the pandemic instead allowed them ample time to craft their debut. Thus, the band wrote songs and cut demos in the basement of Allen’s mother’s home — the little green house of the title — and then, in the summer of 2020, they hit the studio with Chris Teti of The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, their Connecticut emo forebear. The resulting record is remarkably accomplished and versatile for such a young band. The songwriting is tight and dynamic, the production clean yet visceral. Even in its weaker moments, like the borderline saccharine acoustic ballad “Wayne,” there’s usually something to love (in that case, a flurry of “ba ba ba” backing vocals that owe a lot to Melucci’s late-breaking Beach Boys obsession — and, come to think of it, to Death Cab).
The two guest features on Little Green House exemplify this band’s versatility: Anxious are capable of bowling you over with furious crystalline beauty, as on “Let Me” with Fiddlehead’s Pat Flynn, but they’re just as capable of reining in their explosive tendencies for a plaintive midtempo stunner like “You When You’re Gone” with Stella Branstool. These guys are still close enough to their teenage years that they’re mining them for lyrical content without a nostalgia buffer — there’s literally a track called “Growing Up Song” — and they harness that crackling emotion impressively. But the more chilled-out numbers are equally appealing, which indicates Anxious will still be a formidable unit if that youthful vigor ever cools off. If only there was a word to express my eager anticipation for their future…
Little Green House is out 1/21 on Run For Cover.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Jana Horn’s Optimism
• Silverbacks’ Archive Material
• Jake Xerxes Fussell’s Good And Green Again
• Years & Years’ Night Call
• 2 Chainz’s Dope Don’t Sell Itself
• Boris’ W
• Yard Act’s The Overload
• Miles Kane’s Change The Show
• Janis Ian’s The Light At The End Of The Line
• Paul Oakenfold’s Shine On
• Michael Rother & Vittoria Maccabruni’s As Long As The Light
• John Mellencamp’s Strictly A One-Eyed Jack
• Palace’s Shoals
• King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s remix album Butterfly 3001
• Age Of Apocalypse’s Grim Wisdom
• iann dior’s On To Better Things
• Walker Hayes’ Country Stuff The Album
• Boy Harsher’s The Runner soundtrack
• The Yellowjackets soundtrack
• The compilation Paper Route EMPIRE Presents: Long Live Dolph
• The third chapter of Beach House’s Once Twice Melody
• Christina Aguilera’s La Fuerza EP