The trajectory of Anxious up until this point has been fascinating.
From starting the band as teenagers playing slightly gruff Revolution Summer-inspired emo to moving into a space that drew them many comparisons to Title Fight and Farside to their forthcoming debut full-length, Little Green House.
The band’s sonic trajectory mirrors emo’s genre trajectory as a whole to some extent because Little Green House bears many of the hallmarks of the early '00s indie/emo acts that went big at the time.
There’s an anthemic arena-ready quality to almost every song on this record particularly with the use of heavily layered group vocals on singles such as “In April” and “Growing Up Song."
The kids in Anxious are scholars of Youth Crew hardcore and I will happily draw a parallel between the gang vocals of a Youth Crew record and the way group vocals are used here.
In both cases, the intended effect is to capture the electricity of a live show with people yelling back the words at full volume. And it works, because I am sure whatever the next show Anxious plays, the sing-alongs for “Growing Up Song” will be massive and deafening:
Little Green House actually employs a fairly diverse sonic palette that is not readily betrayed by its singles so far. “Call from You," “In April,” and “Growing Up Song” are fairly representative of the overall tone of the album but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few curve balls.
Opening track “Your One Way Street” starts with some melodic riffing that then gives way to harsher vocals more in line with the approach employed on the A-side of the Never Better 7-inch than with the primarily clean vocal style on the singles. But then of course, it hits us with a huge-sounding chorus. That’s gonna be a recurring theme here, these kids have nailed how to write a hook.
“In April” and “Growing Up Song” both use a similar structure of ending with big sing-alongs that are sure to captivate a live audience. “More Than a Letter,” which was originally released as an acoustic version on the New Shapes 7-inch, reappears here this time with electric guitar. “Wayne” throws the first major curve ball on the record, a stripped down acoustic number anchored with a backing vocal melody that will drill its way into your skull.
From here on to the B-side, “Speechless” and “Let Me” both explore slightly more aggressive territory, with the vocals riding that fine line between singing and shouting to great effect. These two songs, with their big distorted riffs and shouted vocals, are the most closely aligned to the band’s earlier material.
“Let Me” is an album highlight particularly from what the guitars are doing because the riffs on this song are where the hooks are, building tension back and forth particularly between the bridge section with a guest backing vocal from Pat Flynn (Fiddlehead) and the final chorus.
“Afternoon” and “You When You’re Gone” close out the record with some more guest vocals, this time courtesy of Stella Branstool (Hello Mary). In “Afternoon”, vocalist Grady Allen croons a catchy melody occasionally aided by Stella but closer “You When You’re Gone” inverts this ratio with Stella taking the lead vocal role and Grady singing backing harmonies.
“You When You’re Gone” is an understated ballad, driven by its guest vocalist and simple yet effective clean guitar melodies. It’s a beautiful and haunting closer that veers away from the big sounds displayed on the other songs of this record while being no less infectious.
I said earlier that the trajectory of Anxious mirrors emo as a genre’s. Anxious's earlier material drew comparisons to emo's early days in the '80s and '90s, but Little Green House sees them evolve into the sounds of emo/indie circa the early-to-mid '00s when the bands were filling huge rooms and even small arenas in some places.
“More Than a Letter” evokes Dashboard Confessional, while “Growing Up Song” evokes Say Anything circa …Is a Real Boy, and all the songs are bangers with earworm hooks all around. And while you can still hear plenty of the grit of the band's earlier material in the thick guitar tone and some of the more shouty vocal parts, it's hard to not appreciate the moments where the record leans the hardest into melody and to not smile as you picture a capacity crowd singing along.
The songs on Little Green House could blow the doors off any small-to-midsize room that Anxious could headline but they’re geared for bigger and better things. I’m buying stock in Anxious for 2022 and onward because with this record, they’re going to the moon.