Album Review: The Anderson Council — The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon

Album cover art often offers clues to the music contained within. But this isn’t always the case. The latest album from The Anderson Council features a cover that uses tarot card images as the focal points of its cover art. That fact might lead the uninitiated to think that The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon is a progressive album by a group that sounds like Genesis, or maybe a UK folk release a la Pentangle.

Such assumptions would be seriously side of the mark; intentionally or otherwise, the album’s artwork is an example of misdirection. But then this band has long employed red herrings. Even their name is something of a McGuffin: an inside joke that may well be lost on casual listeners, the name comes from combining the surnames of two otherwise obscure country bluesmen: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. As you might have noticed, another band used those artists’ names for their own purposes. But does The Anderson Council sound like Syd Barrett and his pals? Not really.

In fact, The Anderson Council aren’t even British. They’re from New Jersey. And it’s that piece of information that provides the first bit of relevant clues to their sound. Music lovers who appreciate The Smithereens and The Grip Weeds – Garden State acts both – are likely to embrace the sounds of The Anderson Council as well. Signed to the reactivated Jem Records, they’re of a piece with like-minded power pop ravers on the label. Led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Horvath, the band has been around for more than two decades, with more than a half dozen albums to its credit.

The songs on The Devil are supremely well-crafted, with chiming melodies and sharply defined melodies. Horvath’s songwriting is inventive and accessible; his ideas result in catchy songs that hold up to close scrutiny. And he’s a fan of the left-run middle-eight, a means of adding variety and interest to a song while remaining within the convention of the three-minute (or thereabouts) pop song. The Anderson Council is among the most gimmick-free acts in a genre rife with bands guilty of that misstep.

The songs on The Devil roar with arena-sized hooks, with power and passion. Horvath’s vocals are always out fornt, but the backing harmonies – either by bassist Simon Burke, guitarist Michael Potenza or (possibly and/or) multitracked Horvath – are key to the appeal of the tunes. Production by Grip Weeds’ Kurt Reil (who also adds bits of keyboards) is top-notch as well. The muscular arrangements showcase the songs in the best possible light. If cliché-free powerpop is your thing, The Devil, The Tower, The Star, The Moon should be on your short list of upcoming acquisitions.