Rising London-based indie outfit Anteros offer an enjoyable but all too familiar collection of dreamy guitar-based pop on their long-awaited debut record.
Given the dire status of British indie rock, aside from a handful of artists in the first decade of the twenty-first century, it feels almost as if the genre has been both resurrected and repaired to its prime and glory over the last six or seven years. Bands like The Magic Gang, Blaenavon and The Big Moon have all provided blissful doses of dream-pop with a side of guitar-rock between them, and in 2015, London-based four-piece Anteros threw their hat into the ring as another potential success story for the genre, with the release of their self-titled debut EP, before debut single “Breakfast” came out in 2016. With two more EP’s and a ripple of singles released since then, the band have finally released debut record ‘When We Land’, an album of considered indie-pop infused with an array of influences that span the previous four decades.
An instantly recognisable feature of the band, consisting of Laura Hayden (vocals), Jackson Couzens (guitar), Joshua Rumble (bass) and Harry Balazs (drums), is just how versatile their sound is, spanning decades of chart pop with influences permeating tracks across the record. A surging opening single of inordinate quality, “Call Your Mother” muses upon post-adolescent pressure and the fight to realise your dreams. Taking a Pixies-esque sprawl of guitar and bass, the track is very much rooted in the 80s, with a flourishing chorus reminiscent of Blondie combining with Rumble’s surging bass line. “Wrong Side” is a 90s pop track infused with disco-rock connotations. Its chorus is an outrageously preposterous pop explosion, yet its compulsive nature lends to it being the most memorable offering on the record. Containing a rousing finale crescendoing into a fire of soaring synths, golden-edged vocals and shuffling percussion, “Wrong Side” is another well-crafted cut, balancing its playfulness with risqué subtleties.
At their peak, Anteros are a band capable of producing a luscious blend of dreamy pop with injections of simplistic yet congenial guitar rock. “Breakfast”, the very first single the band released in 2016, showcases the easy-going and schematic joys to indie rock with stripped back verses expanding into a raucous and unpolished chorus contrived of thrashing instrumentation whilst narrating the boredom of being with a self-indulgent lover. “Drive On” is another indie rock pocket of joy taken from Hayden’s time in LA, in which she realised the limits of the “Hollywood Dream.” One of the most rounded tracks on the record, it was lyrically inspired by the Great Pacific garbage patch, a floating island of junk twice the size of Texas, and acts as a stark warning to the plastic pollution embedding itself within the globe’s increasingly-decaying structure.
The incandescent glamour that hides within Hayden’s vocals makes its presence known on tracks like “Honey”, a sassy privative single that hides a darker narrative surrounding a toxic relationship behind a silky smooth guitar shimmer. By far the best vocal performance on the record, “Let It Out” sees the singer’s yearning vocals calling out to a lover and caressing the track’s smooth guitar line in the process. A more serene, sedentary blues-rock offering, the track flourishes into a soulful and defiant ending, a world apart from the rest of the record.
Growing up in Barcelona with a Spanish father and English mother, Laura Hayden’s intoxicating presence on the record adds a faultless spark to many of ‘When We Land’’s tracks, but it’s not until she is at her most vulnerable that we see just how much of a creative tour de force she can be. With a thumping chorus section shifting into a delicate breakdown laden with orchestral flourishes, the winding path of “Ordinary Girl” is a defiant message of strength for womanhood and one of Anteros’ more surprising constructions, yet the freshness it adds to the album is remarkable. What seems to be a declaration to letting go of a relationship is actually a more personal narration from times of hardship and confusion. Just weeks before her birthday, Hayden’s grandmother passed away on the same day in which she found out that her father’s wife was expecting a baby, a child whose age difference with Hayden would be the same between the singer and her own father. Lyrics ‘‘I wonder if there’ll be a likeness, I guess it all depends / I wonder if you’ll be a princess, mindless can we be friends?’ act as Hayden’s way of trying to understand har father’s news, whilst the single as a whole is a perfect testament to the singer’s abilities in channeling confusion and hardship into a creative outsource.
Whilst Anteros’ take on steady dream pop is a mainstay on the debut record, the four-piece offer diverging paths to new artistic destinations. Glimpses of artistic expansion appear in “Fool Moon”, a glittering track reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Gossip. With a funk-oriented bass groove and a Nile Rodgers style gleam within the guitars, there is an irresistible quality in the stomping chorus which makes the track an instant dance-floor filler, whilst a flickering synth arrangement bolsters the intricacy and appeal to the band’s sound. A maelstrom of instrumentation combines on the grungy electro-pop piece “Afterglow”. As waves of crashing drums provide the bite that listeners desire, the electrically charged chorus soars to unprecedented heights whilst lyrics ‘I’ll be there if you let me know’ yearn with unfathomable desire.
ABBA’s influence on the four piece is prominent throughout the quirky “Ring Ring”, a pleasant but not overly-gripping single consisting of an amalgamation of quirky synths, wobbling bass and staccatoed drums. Album closer “Anteros” is again a gratifying track with its piano core and Hayden’s pure vocal performance, yet it fails to ignite the imagination as to where the band could potentially expand to next. “Anteros”’ inclusion could perhaps be argued as a bonus for fans, due to it being the London outfit’s first track from their 2015 debut EP, but whether that’s a good enough reason for its inclusion is a debate in its own right.
As a collection of bittersweet musings about the trials and tribulations of life as four twenty-somethings, ‘When We Land’ is an established display of dreamy indie rock with an ethereal blend of past music icons and modern rock. With sharp comparisons to the likes of Blondie, Pixies and an array of Britpop era heroes, Anteros are a band that would slot in perfectly on any episode of Top of the Pops within the last forty years, making their sound practically timeless due to its versatility.
The issue with the record is that it doesn’t stand out amongst the growing quagmire of indie-rock. With a vast array of new bands releasing debut records over the past few years, Anteros’s debut is promising, but sonically very similar to the likes of Black Honey for example.
A more contentious issue with the record is its failure to offer fans a sense of continuation with their music. The amount of previous releases gives the album an air of familiarity, but in truth the lack of new singles is disappointing. With just three previously unreleased tracks, Anteros’ debut record feels almost like a “Best of…” playlist, which is a shocking let down for those who have waited so long for the full-length debut release. Whilst musically ‘When We Land’ is a solid collection of work, it loses all sense of anticipation and mystery upon its release. What was thought to be an excitingly fresh body of work for the future in fact appears as a fairly numbing reflection of previously heard indie pop, which at the end of the day is a lost opportunity for a band of Anteros’ calibre.