CD Review of Reasons by Anyu
Recommended if you like
Youssou N’Dour, Steely Dan,
Ruben Blades
Axent Records
Anyu: Reasons

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


very now and then you hear an album that completely takes you out of your element and transports your imagination to some place completely new. Like a good book or movie, it’s a journey that you simply accept and enjoy the ride. These albums are in short supply, mainly because it takes a certain sort of talent to create such grand designs and when we’re talking about a music business that’s falling over on itself from the inside out, these kinds of artists are either given extremely short shrift or are under the radar more than ever.

Lucky for us, then, that we have been graced by the presence of Anyu and his excellent new album, Reasons. He’s being billed as a World/Latin music amalgam, and while there are elements of those genres in his music, what it basically comes down to is that this is simply an excellent pop album, full of maturity, darker overtones, rich production, and music and lyrics that will give you that instant “cinema of the mind” reaction. Reasons is almost one of those indescribable works that when you hear it, you know you’re being reminded of something, but you’re not sure what, which is always a good thing – as it shows that Anyu has taken whatever inspirations he’s had and made them his own.

The track that really gripped me the most upon first hearing Reasons was “Lucky Ones.” Lyrically, the song is about a girl who’s always been judged harshly throughout her life both by her family and friends, with both factions impressing their own ideas and beliefs on her while stifling her personality. It’s definitely some deep and heady stuff going on here, not the garden variety “Janie’s Got a Gun” crap, but something far more shadowy. Yet on top of this it’s the hypnotic music, produced expertly with a sheen that would make Steely Dan proud (and coming from this writer, that’s heavy praise). Ominous synth notes buzz in and out at the right moments, while Anyu’s crisp, warm guitar melts into the background and the percussion sweeps in to heighten the emotion.

But let’s drop back a bit. Anyu isn’t new to the scene at all. When he was a teen, Anyu played in the group the First Thought, which happened to be managed by Susan Silver, then-wife of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden/Audioslave fame. The band was impressive enough to open for acts such as UB40 and Thomas Dolby. Afterwards, Anyu decided that he wanted to explore other areas of music, and thus began a lifelong journey to other continents and countries, spending time in Europe and India, seeking out the sources of his world music inspirations. The end result was that it deepened Anyu’s musical versatility, performance, and abilities in the studio itself.

Anyu makes it clear that Reasons is indeed a product of his band’s work, not just his alone. He says, “I recorded the songs over and over with many different musicians until I got what I was searching for. It’s not the note that interests me, it’s the sound of the note.” More shades of that Steely Dan attitude shining through – but this isn’t at all like the Dan’s music in the end, even if it is just as eclectic. In songs such as “No More Than a Day” and “Sasha,” the music just seemingly comes alive and grows at its own fluid pace, not rushing itself.

Indeed, Reasons is a lush, sort of languid album, but that’s not to say it teeters on the boring or pretentious. On the contrary, it sounds like a very mature work, almost like one of those albums by an artist who’s been around releasing discs for years and has hit the sweet spot and knows how to get every last great drop from the recipe. That Anyu is a relative “newcomer” and is making and producing music this side of impeccable is nothing short of brilliant. And the song to hear where all of this worldly inspiration comes together so excellently is the title track itself. Melding African-like beats to Brazilian-styled horns with an underlying Latin groove, the song is the ultimate testament to what Anyu is all about. For fans of musical escapism and top-notch production and performance, Reasons is a beautiful diamond in the rough.

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