For the past five years, Kris Anaya, the creative force behind Sacramento, California's An Angle, has written angular rock songs that have drawn influence from a wide variety of pop, indie, alternative and classic rock artists. His clever arrangements and witty lyrics have earned him a strong following and secured him a deal with Drive-Thru Records, which released his strong 2004 debut ...And Take it With a Grain of Salt and the more developed 2005 follow-up We Can Breathe Under Alcohol. But it's with album number three, The Truth is That You Are Alive that truly finds Anaya as a songwriter.
While his first two discs were embraced by the counter-culture, An Angle's new album reveals an artist that yearns to grow beyond the reach of the indie idiom and write songs that resonate with anyone who's ever mourned a loss or experienced a personal triumph. "I've always written about emotional subjects, but with this album I wanted to write something that was more meaningful, and talk about what it means to be alive and how beautiful it is to have this moment and time on earth," Anaya says.
The songs on The Truth is That You Are Alive are alternately beautiful, melancholy, playful, dramatic and swaggering. Anaya augments his rock arrangements with a range of colorful instrumentation, including violin, cello, horns, piano and female backing vocals.
"I'm Alright" embraces familiar elements of indie and classic rock and blossoms into an exultant number with an unforgettable chorus, "Falling in Your Arms" weaves ringing guitars with bluesy piano and a gritty rhythm to create a medley of restrained power and passion, and "Red River" combines courtyard baroque strings and female pop harmonies with sad storytelling and cynical observations.
Like many songwriters, Anaya's musical evolution is accompanied by self-examination, a process by which he created new goals and aspirations for himself.
"I want people to see that my songs aren't all sad and emotional bullshit," he says. "Great things happen in life and we must take each step for what it is and go with the flow. I want them to see, this isn't just an emotional person, but a person who's trying to have understanding."
In the past, Anaya has played band lynchpin, and hired a rotating cast of guest musicians to record and tour. This time, he worked with a core group of musicians who now compose his group -bassist Matt Sergent and drummer Aram Deradoorian - giving the songs a greater sense of cohesion. Even so, there were plenty of guests, and by the time An Angle finished recording The Truth is That You Are Alive 23 musicians had played on the record.
"It was almost like working with two different bands," Anaya says. "I would hash out the songs with my main group, then on the side, I would work out the string and horn arrangements with other musicians. I put it all together in the studio."
The process worked and helped An Angle create a memorable album that echoes with poignancy and originality. From the push-pull tension of "Even if I..." to the timeless progressions of "Clean and Gold," The Truth is That You Are Alive is an unflinching reflection of life and a case study in how personal exploration can yield outstanding results.