Album Review: Anderson East’s “Encore”

I first discovered Anderson East when I was searching for music to play on my radio show earlier this year. In the last-minute time crunch that I often find myself in, I generally look at my favorite Chicago radio station’s “New Music Thursday” playlist and find some new music to fit into my show. This is how I got introduced to the incredible soul singer that is Anderson East. His voice on “All on My Mind” hit me quickly, and the song became my jam for the rest of the term. When his album, titled “Encore,” finally came out, I knew instantly what I would be reviewing.

The opening track, “King for a Day,” has great guitar riffs and touches of organ throughout that set a fantastic gospel tone for the album. The horn parts and harmonies give the song extra flair as East sings about holding on to his love. Chris Stapleton’s songwriting credit is readily apparent; the track has all the marks of a Stapleton song. East’s voice has the same gospel punch that Stapleton’s does and works flawlessly with the track.

The third song on the album starts out with a simple chord progression on the piano. East is able to use instrumentation here in a way that heavily contributes to the words he is singing. This song has the feeling of a Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” era ballad. The last fifty seconds of the song has a beautiful saxophone solo that sounds just like something one might hear off of “Jungleland.”

“Sorry You’re Sick” directly contrasts “House is a Building.” It starts with an incredible horn part that sounds a lot like Chicago at their poppiest. Much more uptempo than the previous, this song also has a disco flavor to it that is not heard prior. This song is a cover of a Ted Hawkins song, released in 1982. It is an uptempo funk remake of the original, which sounds like an Otis Redding song accompanied by fast, folksy acoustic guitar. The electric guitar wails again here and, with the horns, makes for an incredibly catchy, fun listen.

“If You Keep Leaving Me” is more of a classic soul ballad, with a heavy 12/8 accompanied by gentle electric guitar that sounds a lot like ‘60s soul ace Steve Cropper. Anderson East’s voice sounds vulnerable singing, “If you keep leaving me, I’ll keep loving you. If you keep hurting me, I’ll keep wanting you.” The song gets surprisingly heavy for the second chorus, with harsh electric power chords building up to the climax of the song: an intense, emotional, Pink Floyd-esque guitar solo with organ, thumping drums and giant wall of vocal harmony underneath.

One of the two hits from the album, “Girlfriend,” is a fun, catchy number that pays respect to some of East’s more funky influences. Tower of Power’s “What Is Hip” comes to mind. “I think I’m love with your girlfriend” is repeated over and over throughout the song, with an intense horn line punctuated by a tremendously powerful bari sax.

“All On My Mind,” the lead single for this album, is a strutting number about his desire for the person he loves. This song was written by Ed Sheeran, which is evident from its lyrics; however, East is the one who really sells it. His gravelly voice escalates to a hound-dog howl on this one. The guitar takes more of a back seat, while the string riffs are front and center, right behind East’s voice.

These were the songs that stuck out to me on this album. The only weakness on this record is that a lot of the same formulas were used to make it; horns are used frequently, the guitar riffs sound similar to one another. However, the best tracks on this album—those I’ve mentioned here—are the reason why I say that this is my favorite album of 2018 so far.