Ever since its 2009 release, Felt by Anchor & Braille, the side project of now-former Anberlin leadman Stephen Christian, has stood out to me as a unique album experience. Part of that is because that was just before I really started branching out with my music, and so the atmospheric, acoustic rock/folk was an entirely new sound in my library, up until that point primarily occupied by heavier music. But even to this day, there’s a magic to the album that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard replicated.
It would probably behoove me to, at some point, explore this entire album in a review; it certainly merits that kind of in-depth exploration, and it would push me to listen through the album as a whole, which is something I don’t do nearly often enough anymore. For today, though, I’d like to explore one of my favorite pieces from Felt: “Introspect.” It’s a grim and atmospheric song, with lyrics full of conflict and—unsurprisingly—introspect.
The mood of the song along gives it away pretty clearly, but the working title for the song—“In Retrospect, It Was Obviously Hell”—helps to clarify the quality experience the song is describing. In fact, I remain disappointed that the title was changed. Of course I’m biased, because in general I appreciate longer and more unorthodox song titles, but the repeated questioning of “Is this heaven, or is this hell?” is an extremely powerful piece of the song, and while answering it in the song would have taken away from the immersion into this confusing headspace, the title, I think, stands as an effective means of expressing that.
Either way, it is evident that the experiences the song describes are not good ones; the lyrics are filled with regret and bitterness. The instrumentals, from soft strings to piano and guitar, pull together the poignant reflection that the lyrics bring forward. Christian’s vocals top off the effect, giving the song a sort of disconcerting beauty that makes it stand out.
Some of the most effective lines of the song (and my personal favorites) come at the end of the second verse: “I may be lost here, here in your eyes / But these scars on my heart they keep me, keep me in line.” There’s something particularly impactful in this expression of a draw toward something and of wanting it, but having damaging, scarring experiences that prevent you from going there nonetheless.
While evidently not the happiest song (as I’ve said before, mellow music is my bread and butter), it’s so brilliantly composed and full of emotion, and I strongly recommend giving it a listen.