Two-and-a-half-years ago Anderson East released his major label début, Delilah. With that record, East demonstrated a compelling blend of rhythm and blues, soul, and Americana, and a voice that perfectly matched the musical style that resulted. When much new music can feel like a stale rehashing of the current big trends it made for a refreshing change of pace, and all the more so for the quality of the performance and execution. East’s second major release is the aptly titled Encore, a collection of eleven tracks that reaffirm the quality of his voice and the shape of his sound.
When it comes to judging Encore, East himself provides a useful gauge by which to measure the record as he has asserted that each song on the album must be capable of closing out a live performance. So, with that metric in mind, does Encore stack up? The answer, with a small caveat, is not really. The caveat? It depends on how much attention the audience is paying.
Put on in the background Encore proves to be a rather enjoyable album, driven by the pleasant timbre of East’s vocals and the warm musical backing that emphasises either the guitar and organ or the brass section, depending on whether it is leaning into the blues or soul elements of the sound. King For a Day opens the album strongly, if a little abruptly, on a bluesy note and establishes the record’s musical palette, and the listener can be swept along easily enough to the maudlin piano ballad of Cabinet Door which closes the record.
It is when the listener starts to pay closer attention that Encore’s weaknesses become evident. Too much reverb is applied to East’s vocals on This Too Shall Last – a track which features guitar work from Ryan Adams – and producer Dave Cobb should have insisted East re-do the squealy vocal takes on the lo-fi Surrender. While reflecting the tempo of Ted Hawkins’ original, Sorry You’re Sick fails to capture the song’s subdued and resigned poignancy, resulting in a track which feels un-ironically positive despite its subject matter, and a cover of Willie Nelson’s Somebody Pick Up My Pieces adds nothing to the original.
Pop wunderkind Ed Sheeran has a co-writing credit on lead single, All On My Mind, perhaps resulting in the inexplicable sense of familiarity one has upon first hearing the track, while electronic artist Avicii contributed to the soulful and groovy, Girlfriend. With the distractions that abound at a live performance, audiences will inevitably respond well to Encore’s songs in that context, but when it comes to those listening to the album as a whole, East is relying on the charm of his voice and his sound to carry the day.