Anytown – Year by Year
Great stories rarely occur with an equally great fanfare to mark their arrival. They’re not told by extroverts that share their experiences with company whenever the opportunity presents itself. No, the greatest tales come from the introverts. Those who say so little, that when they do say something you know that it is important, even if it’s just voiced for their own sake rather than anyone else’s. That’s the kind of record that Year by Year is; a story told for the simple joy of telling it. It’s an album that feels as though it would have been made the exact same way even if it was never intended to see the light of day. It’s an artist looking inward, reflecting on life, and remembering times gone by, and we just happen to be lucky enough to hear it.
Lyrically is where this record excels. The wonderfully descriptive ‘Steel Town’ does a great job of setting the scene, capturing the industrial spirit of Sheffield, and draws from a rich history to paint a nostalgic and poignant vignette. Songs like ‘Little Soul’, ‘Just About Right’ and the title track ‘Year by Year’ make superb use of simple yet potent imagery. In detailing the turning of the seasons, picturesque walks through the countryside, even just the sensation of walking out your front door to face a new day, it manages to transport you into its world.
Though for the most part it is a very personal and introspective album, its most striking offering also draws inspiration from another source. Closing track ‘Edith Cavell’ shares the brave work of a First World War nurse and the many lives she saved. Even here though, Anytown uses a personal touch to powerful effect. It can be hard to truly comprehend the larger scale of heroic deeds, instead it is a far more moving and human experience to focus in on a more intimate connection. I defy you not to be moved by Matt Taylor’s reflections on how Edith saved his great grandfather, and how the ripple of her actions has affected his family down the line.
Musically Year by Year definitely gravitates towards more understated arrangements. Granted you will likely find yourself longing for a bit more variation, but you can’t deny that every note feels purposeful. The few strummed chords or gentle piano notes that open each song have the same effect as the aforementioned introverted storyteller clearing their throat before divulging a tale; everyone knows that’s the cue to be quiet and pay attention for something special.