Album Review: Between The Ember & Ink by Second Anchor Line

Provo music newcomer makes an impressive debut with a release that is as equally expressive as it is accessible.

By Alessandro Improta

Second Anchor Line is the solo acoustic project of Provo music scene newcomer, Nicolas Harper. Though Harper is new to Provo music, he is exploding onto the scene. Already having played several shows since the release of his EP, Between The Ember & Ink, just two months ago, and having recently wrapped up a short tour around the west coast with fellow emo locals Doris Day., we can see that Harper is putting in the necessary work to build his brand.

Before we get into reviewing the music there is one note that I want to make about this EP. I want to talk about the production. This is about as DIY as you can get as it was actually recorded on tape. Yes, tape. This gives the whole EP a very warm sound that feels pretty great, but it takes away some of the clarity of the performance, and adds some distortion at points when things get louder, especially on the guitar. I still am not decided on how I feel about this, and I’ve listened to this EP easily twenty times. I am not a big fan of when the sound distorts – an example of this can clearly be heard in “Double Knife Damage” right around 39 seconds in – however, I am a big fan of the warm tone of the recording.

Nic Harper performing at Muse Music.

The EP opens up with “Cigarettes & Old Cassettes.” You’ll see as you listen to the EP that Harper has this ability to talk about being depressed and still sound upbeat about it. The rhythm of the guitar on this is driven, and initially sounds like the kind of thing I would blast in the car on a sunny day with the windows down. However, once you start hearing the lyrics “The climate shifts into dark and rainy fits” in the first verse, you realize there is a lot more depth to the song. Further, lyrics like, “Truthfully I’m just your basic let down. Self-confidence is something that I struggle with,” are so honest and straightforward. And, unfortunately for a lot of us, they are incredibly relatable. The track leaves you with some hope as near the end Harper declares, “I think I’m getting better. I think I’m getting there.”

“Double Knife Damage” is not only my favorite song on this release, it’s also one of my favorite songs right now. It’s honestly been stuck in my head for over a week. The guitar part here is very intricate, and as always, the lyrics are fantastic. Exhibit A: “There’s a lot of things that I wish we hadn’t done, so I that I wouldn’t feel attached every time I thought of us.” This song especially makes me wish Second Anchor Line was a full band instead of a solo act. There is so much space for powerful dynamics that just cannot be achieved on a guitar alone. Don’t get me wrong, this version does not disappoint in the slightest, but the version I can hear in my head – with the addition of at least bass and drums if nothing else – has the potential to be absolutely incredible, and selfishly I can’t wait to actually hear it.

“490” is the third sad track, but the first to actually sound like a sad song. I think it was smart to end the EP on the most emotional song. The first two feel like sadness being coped with, and thus it is being effected and changed in its expression. In “490” there is nothing affecting it. It’s just pure sadness. Aptly named, the title to this track is a biblical reference to when Jesus commands Peter to forgive someone not just seven times, but seventy times seven (70 X 7 = 490). This entire song is written almost as if it were a letter to an old lover, even posing questions to her like, “Are you facing the fact that we’re never going back?” Hearing it almost makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping. Honestly, this song absolutely kills me. Getting over someone you care about is no easy task. I tend to romanticize things to the extreme and have a hard time accepting the cold finality of a breakup. For that reason the last couple lines in this song are incredibly relatable for me. “I can’t be the only one who thought we were safe. Why can’t I see that we’ve seen our last days?”

There’s not a whole lot going on in this EP – just guitar and lead vocals. But between the intricate guitar parts and catchy melodies I was impressed as a listener. More importantly, after listening to this EP I feel like I’ve come to understand human emotions in a way that even a conversation with Harper wouldn’t have allowed. This EP is a musical release, but really it is about the expression of struggle and hope. As Harper put it himself, “The songs are meant to explain my process of conquering personal depression and becoming myself again when I spent a large portion of my time being someone that I wasn’t. I guess it could be described as an attempt at a resolve to let go of past relationships and sorrows in order to move forward.” The music scene here in Provo is full of pop music that, although very impressive musically, is often void of emotion. It is important to have music like this: raw and real. The fact that this is not only emotional, but also very accessible for the average listener makes it all the more impressive.

Make sure to like Second Anchor Line on Facebook. You can also follow him on Instagram (@2nd_anchor_line).


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