Podcast: The Best Music of Autumn

Another fall season is upon us, which means it’s time to break out the hoodies, crack open a few Oktoberfest beers, and enjoy some of our favorite autumn music. On our latest podcast episode, Kiel and Kyle chat about the favorite albums to spin when fall rolls around and why they’re so nostalgic for the season. They also discuss what makes for a great autumn album and share some of their favorite seasonal activities. Bands included in the conversation include: Mayday Parade, The Early November, Anberlin, AFI and more!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite album to listen to in autumn? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Anberlin – Cities

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While Cities is widely regarded as Anberlin’s best album, the argument can be made that it never fully received its due. However, it’s quite possible that both the band and its fans would have suffered if it had.

Leading up to 2007, the Florida rock act had quickly ascended the ranks, becoming one of the most revered bands in the scene. Anberlin spent their first two albums, Blueprints for the Black Market and Never Take Friendship Personal, honing their sound and bridging the gap between the popular emo leanings of the time and full-on alt-rock. By the time Cities dropped, it was clear that Anberlin had carved their own niche.

You can buy Cities on iTunes.

You can buy Cities on iTunes.

Cities can’t quite be classified as a concept album, but is certainly far more than a collection of songs. The album’s tracks are intertwined by themes of pain and frustration – an acknowledgement of the depravity that affects every community and relationship. Yet amidst the brokenness lies a will to continue the search for hope.

Not only was Cities a deep thematic success, the album showcased a band that had refined its sound to perfection. Underneath the album’s crisp production lied evidence that Anberlin had become a new leader in the genre, no longer following in the footsteps of others. Even 10 years later, Cities sounds unique for its time. If it were released today, it would still sound just as fresh and compelling.

However, just a few short months after its release, and before fans could fully digest the record, the band announced some shocking news. Having completed their contract with indie label Tooth and Nail Records, the band had been courted and signed by Universal Republic and would return to the studio to begin crafting their major label debut.

Although both the promotional and touring cycles for Cities were cut short, fan excitement for the band heightened. Soon, rumors spread that Universal Republic might re-release Cities to a wider audience or that the band might even re-record the album with new guitarist Christian McAlhaney now in their ranks. The events that followed are almost stranger than fiction, but somehow elevated the band to heights that no one expected.

There would be no major label lionizing of Cities. Instead, Anberlin released “Feel Good Drag” in the summer of 2008 as the lead single for New Surrender. The re-recorded song from 2005’s Never Take Friendship Personal left fans befuddled, as did the rushed writing and recording of the new album itself. Before Cities had even cooled off, the album had seemingly been replaced with what many perceived to be an inferior product.

However, “Feel Good Drag” became an unlikely breakthrough hit. During its 29-week climb to the top of Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart, the track became a record-breaker, spending more time on the chart en route to #1 than any other single in history. Suddenly a staple on rock radio and MTV, the band were booking large headlining tours, playing bigger venues, and attracting a massive new audience.

From a fan perspective, New Surrender received flack upon its release for feeling cluttered and uneven. While certainly not without its standout tracks, the album seemed to lack sonic direction, but also suffered from being quickly released on the heels of the band’s masterpiece.

In hindsight, there’s no denying that Anberlin’s major label signing and the sudden unexpected success of “Feel Good Drag” overshadowed what the band had accomplished with Cities, but it also changed the lives and careers of the band’s members. Without those events, would the band have been able to experiment to such critical success with 2010’s Dark is the Way, Light is a Place, return to their aggressive roots with 2012’s highly lauded Vital, or been able to exit on their own terms with 2014’s Lowborn?

Without the perceived slight that Cities received in 2007, the conversation surrounding one of the scene’s most successful and respected bands might be much different. Now, a decade later, we can talk about the album with full knowledge that Anberlin achieved a great deal over the course of their 16 year run, and that later albums like Dark is the Way and Vital even rival what the band accomplished with Cities.

Over the course of seven solid studio albums, it is my opinion that Cities is Anberlin’s most cohesive, focused and exemplary release. It features the band’s best song (“Dismantle. Repair.”), the most powerful album closer I’ve ever heard (“*Fin”), and best represents the band’s sound and purpose. However, if the short cycle of Cities meant the extended career and expanded audience of one of my favorite bands, who am I to complain?

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Acceptance – Colliding by Design

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Well, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Acceptance’s premature departure in 2006 not only left a gaping hole in the hearts of their fans, but also created one of the biggest “what ifs” in scene history. Now, more than a decade removed from the release of the band’s lone album, Phantoms, Acceptance returns.

Perhaps the greatest challenge Acceptance faces with the release of Colliding by Design is one of expectations. When someone’s only frame of reference for your band is the music you created 12 years ago, how do you reintroduce yourself after so much has changed? Colliding by Design is not Phantoms Part 2. In fact, you may be well off to leave your presumptions about Acceptance at the door before entering.

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You can buy Colliding by Design on iTunes.

Regardless of the sonic evolution, one thing is clear: our hunch that Acceptance was truly a great band has been proven true. Colliding by Design is wonderful and different – we just never got the chance to hear a decade’s worth of music that would have come in between.

So let’s talk about the music. Colliding by Design is a wonderfully written and produced pop rock album. Where it differs from Phantoms is in influence and execution. That debut was chock full of obvious aggressive melody, whereas Design is much more patient and varied. The same 80s influence that has powered bands like The 1975 into the spotlight is evident, but buried delicately into the mix.

The album’s first single and opening track, “Diagram of a Simple Man”, serves as a clean starting point for fans, finding a middle ground between recent Coldplay and old Acceptance. A clear nod to the members’ confusing time apart, Jason Vena breaks through the speakers during the chorus with his signature croon, belting, “We live in black and white / We dream in color”.

There are certainly moments on Collide where we get short glimpses of the ghost of Acceptance past, including the wonderfully straight forward pop rock track “Fire and Rain” and even recent single “Haunted”, with its explosive chorus and pounding percussion, courtesy of original drummer Garrett Lunceford.

Truly, though, the album’s best moments come when the band sounds brand new. The record’s title track is a shining example of what Acceptance sounds like in the year 2017, with a deep 80s vibe and a silky smooth chorus courtesy of Vena: “Let’s kiss before you go away / Two burning stars chasing the day / There’s a look in your eye, you want to stay / So let’s kiss before you go away”.

Likewise, “Sunset” catapults itself into contention for title of the band’s best song with a perfect blend of pounding drums, polished guitar riffs and swelling synthesizers. A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Drive soundtrack, “Sunset” seems every bit the logical evolution for the band, with Vena harkening his past lyrical deliveries with sultry lines like, “She looks at me with a wicked smile / I look to her, I’m gonna stay awhile”.

Throughout the record, guitarist Christian McAlhaney continues to make his case as one of the most unsung musicians in the scene. The songwriting chops he honed during his time away with Anberlin are felt heavily on Colliding by Design, especially on tracks like “When I Was Cursed”, which sounds like it could have belonged on the next Anberlin album. Likewise, producer Aaron Sprinkle, who has experience working with both Acceptance and Anberlin, shines brightly here, pulling the right strings at just the right moment to capture the band’s growth.

It would be unfair at this point to not point out that Colliding by Design has its flaws. Like the pins and needles that come with standing up after a long rest, the members of Acceptance are still early in their reunion and are surely working muscles that haven’t seen use in years.

Recorded in chunks, with ideas being sent back and forth throughout the process, the album sometimes suffers from a disconnect between songs and flows uneven at times. Even so, there’s an overarching theme to the record that helps hold it all together – a clear love the band has for one another and an eagerness to learn what it means to be Acceptance again.

We are fortunate to have new music from a band that we never truly expected to return. We are also fortunate that a band of such talent saw fit to create something new and honest instead of trying to replicate the past. Phantoms was a perfect album for its time, but any attempt to recreate such a time capsule would undoubtedly resulted is disappointment. The very existence of Colliding by Design speaks to hope in the present and in the future.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 013 – Best Album Openers and Closers

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There’s something about a great opening track that can set the tone for an entire album. Likewise, a killer closer can bring things full circle and act as the perfect bookend to a great record. On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel and Kyle break down their favorite album openers and closers of all time. Listen in and share some of your favorites in the replies!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/itsalldead/IAD_Podcast_013_mixdown.mp3|titles=It’s All Dead podcast episode: 013]

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Read a Comprehensive History of Anberlin

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Think you know everything about Anberlin? Think again. Matt Metzler has compiled an unauthorized comprehensive history of Anberlin, spanning across the band’s career. His site, AnberlinForever.com, features interviews, band stories, photos, old video footage and much more. Take a look around the site – if you’re a fan of the band, you’re not going to want to miss this.

What are some of your favorite Anberlin memories? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

10 Classic Music Videos Turning 10 in 2015

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Here at It’s All Dead, we have a lot of fun celebrating albums that have stood the test of time. In February alone, we reflected on three classic albums that are turning 10 years old in 2015. However, we thought it was time to show some love to some of the great music videos that we’re still watching a decade after their release.

A good music video captures our attention by telling its story visually. It relies on more than just cool shots of the band – it’s a unique glimpse into a normally unseen dimension of a song. Below are some of our favorite music videos from 2005. These videos not only introduced us to some of our favorite bands and records, they cemented a visual element of each song into our minds.

Take a look and share some of your favorite music videos from 2005 in the replies!

Anberlin – “Paperthin Hymn”

Directed by Chris Sims, the video for Anberlin’s “Paperthin Hymn” is one of the best to come out of the scene. A heart-wrenching story of two young lovers takes a shocking and unexpected turn at the end and captures every ounce of vocalist Stephen Christian’s emotional cries.

Thirty Seconds to Mars – “The Kill”

Another wildly successful video on MTV, “The Kill” plays out like “The Shining”, finding the band inside of a ghostly hotel. It’s creepy, dark and pays homage to a horror classic. When lead singer Jared Leto comes face to face with himself in the hallway during the song’s explosive bridge, it’s impossible to look away.

Panic! At the Disco – “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”

This video not only skyrocketed Panic! At the Disco to superstardom, it won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Music Video. Not bad for a debut. Classically theatrical and over the top, “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” features heavy makeup, a fire breather and a full-blown circus. It’s Panic! at their best.

Fall Out Boy – “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”

Ah yes, the classic love story of a deerboy and the daughter of a hunter. Huh? As strange as it sounds, this music video worked wonders in breaking out Chicago’s pop punk sweethearts. Throw in a mighty point to the sky from drummer Andy Hurley and Pete Wentz’s signature salute, and you’ve got a classic.

The All American Rejects – “Move Along”

The break-neck video for “Move Along” finds All American Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter dressed as a doctor, a football player and even a librarian. With performance shots from the bottom of an empty swimming pool, this quirky music video was an MTV staple during the band’s rapid ascent in 2005.

Paramore – “Pressure”

Paramore’s first music video was a great one. Telling a story of teen frustration and angst, “Pressure” introduced us to a group of future rock stars. The video is capped off by the band’s signature over the back cartwheel as water pours from overhead.

Chiodos – “Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek”

This is a weird one, to be certain. Chiodos’ big break came in the form of “Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek”, an angry song about the dissolving of a relationship. The video features a mouse and a bird throwing down in a dark alley before collapsing in each others arms. As strange as it sounds, it packs a punch.

The Academy Is… – “The Phrase That Pays”

Is William Beckett insane? The music video for “The Phrase That Pays” would have us think so. A coming out party for The Academy Is…, this video finds the band in hospital gowns, taking their meds and passively watching the tube. It’s as weird as it is fun.

The Used – “I Caught Fire”

The music video for “I Caught Fire” captures the energy of The Used perfectly. With bright colors, a black light and rocking performance shots, this video is perfectly celebratory for such an anthemic love song. Also, Bert McCracken’s flower-in-the-mouth shot is hard to forget.

Cartel – “Say Anything (Else)”

This poppy opener to Cartel’s debut album Chroma was destined to be a single. It rightly features bright colors, a peppy spunk and clever message bubbles throughout an 80s inspired video. It’s cheesy, but it’s earned.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Is Acceptance Releasing New Music in 2015?

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Just a few weeks after it was announced that Acceptance would be reuniting to perform at this year’s Skate and Surf Festival, it now appears that there may be much more in store. Guitarist Christian McAlhaney has posted an Instagram photo, hinting that more performances, and maybe even new music, may be in store. See the full text below:

Before I joined Anberlin, I was in a band from Seattle called Acceptance. That band is reuniting this year for the first time in almost 10 years. We’ll be playing some shows throughout the year and hopefully releasing some new music. Keep up with us @acceptanceband. Pooooooorty! #acceptance

Feeling excited? Us too! Share your thoughts on this update in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Top 10 Songs of 2014

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Making a list of the top 10 songs of any year is a challenge. Each of us journeys through 12 months filled with highs and lows, challenges and dull moments. The soundtracks that fill those times are often created by our need for a particular sound or feeling in any given instant.

Does ranking these songs require us to distance ourselves from the emotions that helped them resonate? That’s debatable, but perhaps the true measure lies somewhere in between a relatable song that offered purpose or aid and a well constructed, perfectly executed track that showcases a band’s talent.

Needless to say, a lot went into the creation of this list. We did our best to break down what we feel were the best moments of 2014 – the songs that not only defined our lives this year, but the songs that made us perk up with rapt attention. Take a look and let us know what you think in the replies!

10. Merriment – “Backwards”

Perhaps best known as the younger siblings of the DuPree’s of Eisley fame, Merriment has certainly carved their own path with their debut album, Sway. The highlight comes in the form of “Backwards”, perfectly blending the band’s acoustic pop sensibilities with a folk sound that sets them apart from their peers. Christie DuPree’s vocal range is stunning here, especially on the song’s beautiful chorus. Dupree opens the song with the haunting lines, “Holding high your little head / Walking backwards in your steps / Nobody knows you’re dead”. The song is just as mysterious as it is charming, but catchy enough that you can’t listen to it just once. – Kiel Hauck

9. I Can Make a Mess  “Deciduous”

On an album of delicious pop songs, “Deciduous” stands out as one that has every ingredient of a good ICMAM song; gorgeous hooks, minimal production, Enders’ working every note of the vocal scale and the themes of finances and that love will overcome any problem. The song is at once a love song about being a musician, but acknowledges the fears that come along with it, including a singled out line where he quietly worries, “I hope one day my kids think I’m cool / Didn’t sell the farm to be the mule / I’m a fool”. – Kyle Schultz

8. Anberlin – “Stranger Ways”

Fans of Anberlin were fortunate to receive a final goodbye from the band in the form of 2014’s Lowborn. The best moment from the album comes on the 80’s inspired “Stranger Ways”, weaving the band’s tried-and-true songwriting formula with eerie electronics and synthesizers. In truth, it sounds like the best song Depeche Mode never wrote. Vocalist Stephen Christian opens with the chilling lines, “Locking eyes, a waning glance, mistook chance / Of adding meaning to the words forever”. The song climaxes during the bridge as Christian pleads, “Would you say with me, here in my dreams / If I promised you this heaven?” Alas, there will be no staying for Anberlin. Even so, we’re thankful for the fond farewell. – KH

7. XTRMST – “Conformist”

XTRMST are a welcome return to form for straight edge hardcore. The new project from Davy Havok and Jade Puget is what fans of AFI’s hardcore days have spent years hoping for. The guitar work is loose, hypnotically dark and as heavy as a physical attack. “Conformist” shows Havok in perfect form, swooning between spoken word and nightmarish screaming. The song is one of the few singles for an album that highlights the record succinctly. Each lyric is an attack on the listener, critiquing not only their way of life, but their tolerance of any other type of subculture with the repeated accusations of “You are conformist”. It’s an uncomfortable listen, but demands your attention for the rest of the record. – KS

6. Childish Gambino – “III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd)”

Perhaps it’s odd that the best track on Because the Internet fits into the context of the album’s overarching story as a song sung by someone else. It opens as we hear the main character climb into his car and turn the key. The radio comes on, introducing the track, sung by “Lloyd”. Childish Gambino channels his inner-Drake on the track – it’s silky smooth as he sings of the confusion tied to romantic commitment. It’s background noise for our main character as he drives, but it’s speaking both to us and to him. “Everything you won’t say, you tweet it”, sings Gambino. It’s commentary on our internet culture – and an indictment on us all for our willingness to dive head-first into it. – KH

5. Say Anything  Judas Decapitation

Max Bemis’s most ‘Say Anything’ song is about how blogs, fans and the music industry criticize him for not making ‘Say Anything’ music the way they want. It couldn’t be more meta if he mentioned your name in the middle of it. Like the rest of Hebrews, “Judas Decapitation” forgoes the guitar work in favor of a hybrid mesh of flaring pop synth and intense percussion. The song is a scathing attack on the industry and his own fans about their interpretation of his music, which is one of the things that made his music so well respected to begin with. Lyrics like, “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri”, and “Spike his fifteenth espresso with drugs / So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be nineteen with a joint in hand / Never change the band”, show that not only is Bemis aware of every criticism of his music, he’s attacking them head on. – KS

4. Yellowcard – “Lift a Sail”

The title track on Yellowcard’s triumphant Lift a Sail is quite possibly the best song the band has ever written. Gone are the pop punk riffs the band was so well known for – “Lift a Sail” is an anthemic rock song, born from a painful, traumatic event. There’s certainly a sadness here, but the track itself is about rising above the wreckage. It’s something we can all connect to, because in one way or another, we’ve all been there before, struggling to make the choice to press on amidst the pain. When vocalist Ryan Key cries out the song’s massive chorus of, “If a cold wind starts to rise / I am ready now, I am ready now / With the last sail lifted high / I am ready now, I am ready now”, it’s undeniably the most chill-inducing moment of the year. – KH

3. Against Me!  “FUCKMYLIFE666”

This is easily one of the catchiest songs on Transgender Dysphoria Blues due to the melody alone. The bouncing guitars and opening strings tear against the throbbing drums to make a fast, energetic hell of a song. Each verse bleeds into the chorus, hiding the fact that the song is a traditional styled pop song elegantly layered in harmony. It also contains one of the strongest verses on an album full of memorable lines as Laura Grace sings, “Chipped nail polish and a barbed wire dress / Is your mother proud of your eyelashes? / Silicone chest and collagen lips / How would you even recognize me?” The song is short, brutal and incredibly memorable. It manages to stand as one of the best songs in Against Me!’s infamously great catalogue. – KS

2. PVRIS – “My House”

On their debut album, White Noise, synthpop trio PVRIS have promptly destroyed any notion of what a Rise Records band should sound like. Originally formed as a post-hardcore act, PVRIS made the surprising and wise choice to turn pop, littering their landscape of atmospheric synthesizers with bouncing drums and pulsing bass. “My House” is one of the most powerful pop songs you’ll hear this year, thanks in large part to the vocal work of Lyndsey Gunnelfsen. During the track’s massive, dance-worthy breakdown, she howls, “Haven’t you heard? I’m not yours anymore, I’m not yours anymore!” The song is ferocious as it is infectious, making it the most captivating pop song of 2014. – KH

1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe”

On an album whose theme is caving in, “St. Joe Keeps Us Safe” is the lynchpin for Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties that sees our main character breaking down in his mother’s kitchen. It’s a powerful acoustic epic fueled by the slow burn of electric guitar and the tortured cry of a steel guitar yowling in the background. Dan Campbell’s vocals mimic the story perfectly, sounding on the verge of breaking into tears as he describes Aaron’s walk home, eventually building to screams of “Take the car and run!” The descriptions alone would be worthy of being one of this year’s best songs, but the true gem is what should be an impossible feat: Aaron and his mother having an actual conversation. Around a kitchen table, they lean and cry on each other’s shoulders as Campbell sings, “I know things ain’t been good since dad died, I know you don’t need this from me / But mama I’m breaking, there’s no light in the dark, Diane left this week / She said, ‘Son look at me, I know we ain’t been this low before and I’m sorry Aaron / I know this year has been hard’”. – KS

Honorable Mention:

Emarosa – “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play”

Kendrick Lamar – “I”

Architects – “Gravedigger”

Fall Out Boy – “Centuries”

Taylor Swift – “Style”

 

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

10 Underrated Anberlin Songs

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Now that Anberlin’s farewell tour is in full swing, many fans are getting to experience their favorite songs from the band’s massive catalogue one final time before they say goodbye. The Florida rock act has been unveiling a setlist composed of anywhere from 20 to 22 songs each night, many of which are classic mainstays coupled with several fan favorites.

However, with such a large number of fantastic albums and memorable songs, it’s impossible for the band to hit everyone’s favorite. That being the case, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to list 10 of the most overlooked and under appreciated songs in the band’s catalogue that surely could have fit anywhere within their final setlist.

There are only a few rules: 1. None of the tracks on our list can be a part of the band’s final setlist. 2. Only tracks from the band’s first six albums can be included, since the band’s latest release, Lowborn, was off limits for the band’s farewell tour.

So go ahead – check out our list. Did we miss your favorite song? Let us know what you think in the replies!

1. “The Haunting”

It’s hard to believe that one band’s b-side could rival the best work of many other bands, but that’s the case in this instance. A leftover from the band’s Cities sessions, “The Haunting” is just that – haunting. A brutal tale of a lover left alone, “The Haunting” is classic Anberlin. The track begins slowly and softly before approaching a crescendo capped by swirling guitars and Christian’s wailing chorus. It’s not just one of the band’s most underrated tracks – it’s one of their best.

2. “Glass to the Arson”

“Readyfuels” gets most of the love from Anberlin’s debut album, Blueprints for the Black Market, but it’s truly this hidden gem that shines brightest. A rock track through and through, “Glass to the Arson” is a fiery song that follows the straightforward formula found throughout Blueprints, but shines with it’s rabid chorus of “Tonight my heart is cold / Lost in your lies, shallow replies / Tonight I’ll just let go / Lost in your eyes, transparent cries”. The song is full of passion and was a sign of things to come for the band.

3. “Hello Alone”

Cities may be Anberlin’s best album, and as such, is full of great tracks. “Hello Alone” may be the most overlooked though, featuring a soaring chorus and beautiful, poetic lyrics that burn right to the soul. A cry for an answer, any answer at all, goes without response until the song’s climactic end. The track fits well within the confine of Cities and adds a beautiful, hopeful chapter to the often painful story that threads its way through the album.

4. “Modern Age”

With Vital, Anberlin vowed to return to their rock roots with a heavy album full of rock and roll anthems. They did not disappoint. “Modern Age” captures this sentiment better that almost any song on the album with it’s crunchy guitars and powerful synthesizers that drive the song from it’s eerie opening. An uplifting track about choosing to rely on each other instead of forging our journey alone, “Modern Age” is a seminal and powerful Anberlin track.

5. “Alexithymia”

This often overlooked track follows “Hello Alone” on Cities and is arguable just as impressive with its deep bass line and plucking acoustic guitar. The fact that this gentle song explodes into a refrain of “There’s more to living than being alive” simply adds to its allure. Christian’s vocal range is astounding throughout, seemingly gliding from low notes to his upper register with ease.

6. “Type Three”

After haunting strings introduce the track, Christian cooly sings, “I have my reasons for the vices I embrace”, leading into one of the most captivating song’s on Vital. A simple synthesizer and keyboard driven track, “Type Three” is full of emotion and pain, bleeding from one moment to the next, offering a respite from the album’s crushing guitars. It’s all topped off with some of Christian’s best lyrics: “I look to heaven to save me and you call me naive / Rather be a hopeless lover than cursed with disbelief”.

7. “Dance, Dance Christa Päffgen”

The first of what would become an Anberlin tradition, this epic closer to Never Take Friendship Personal changes direction and pace multiple times over during a wild seven minute journey. A song that’s as dance-y as it is rocking, as patient as it is urgent, “Dance, Dance” served as a way to show that Anberlin was far more than just your average rock band. The track hinted at the band’s masterful songwriting skills that would become fully exposed on Cities.

8. “Naïve Orleans”

Another great closer, even if it only lasts for four minutes, “Naive Orleans” is one of the most overlooked songs on Blueprints. Christian’s syrupy opening lines of “Come and go now as you please / Your actions write the melodies / To the songs that we sing” before he hits stride with his legendary chorus of “And I finally found that life goes on without you / And the world still turns when you’re not around”. It may be one of the more gentle songs on the band’s debut, but it’s certainly not devoid of passion.

9. “The Runaways”

One of the funnest songs in the band’s collection, “The Runaways” is full of swirling guitars and groovy bass that makes you want to move. A lot. A killer chorus with driving guitars and drums is enough to cause a riot. A song about a runaway lover, the track is infectious and full of fire, even as it tells a somewhat sad tale of a failed relationship.

10. “Closer”

This may be the most epic and overlooked track from Dark is the Way, Light is a Place. The song builds towards it’s massive chorus, which isn’t even fully realized until its second time through. The band’s knack for crafting a captivating song that requires full patience from the listener is part of what makes them so alluring. Christian’s powerful vocal performance is the icing on top of the cake.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Anberlin – Lowborn

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Goodbyes are never easy, but having a little prior notice certainly makes the event a touch more palatable. For Florida alternative rock powerhouse Anberlin, goodbye comes in the form of one final album – Lowborn – a fitting farewell in nearly every capacity.

Truthfully, it takes a lot of guts to go out this way. For a band with one of the most solid front-to-back discographies of the past decade, there’s a bit of a risk of tarnishing the band’s legacy with a faulty final step. Then again, Anberlin has never been known to disappoint.

The band returned to their original home at Tooth and Nail Records to release their final record, and hit the studio with their self-proclaimed dream team of Aaron Marsh, Matt Goldman and Aaron Sprinkle to record in a creative, pressure-free environment. The resulting product is not only a solid album in its own right, but also serves as an honest depiction of the band as they truly are in 2014.

Throughout Lowborn, Anberlin sidestep many of their own conventions, slighting stark tempo and atmospheric changes between tracks in favor of a slow burn. Lowborn’s songs seem to brood from one to the next, creating a steady swell that keeps you on your toes. Yes, “We Are Destroyer” serves as a combative opener and “Dissenter” refuses to fit within the album’s gentle flow, but as a whole, this might be the most concise and moody album in the band’s discography.

Lowborn finds Anberlin finally chasing a synthpop/alt-rock blend head-on throughout most of the record, sounding more like late-80’s New Order or Depeche Mode than a band you’d find on Warped Tour. The band has dabbled successfully in this sound before on their 2010 album Dark is the Way, Light is the Place, but this 2014 version is a more fully-realized effort.

“Armageddon” lays down grooving synthesizers and bass that flow subtly underneath vocalist Stephen Christian’s haunting lower register. Single “Stranger Ways” starts slow as well, but picks up pace behind Nate Young’s drums to push the song to a breathtaking crescendo at the end of the song’s second verse. Meanwhile, the synthesizers and guitars find their perfect blend on “Atonement”, allowing Christian to carry the song over the top during a chorus of, “Don’t want to be here / Don’t want to be here without you / I need to know you / I need to know you believe in me”.

Thematically, Lowborn is all about brevity, and fittingly, goodbyes. Even without any backstory, you get the uncomfortable urge to grasp at an unknown, fleeting moment. Throughout their history, Anberlin has had a knack for conveying story and emotion throughout the course of an album – the same stands true here. Lowborn moves patiently and darkly, remorseful of its own end while still managing to capture hope and reflection inside of the songs’ often surprising melodies.

So where does Lowborn fall within Anberlin’s superb discography? Its lack of oomph and diversity keep it from landing alongside Cities or Vital as the band’s best work, but it’s undoubtedly a more mature album than early releases like Blueprints for the Black Market or Never Take Friendship Personal. Instead, Lowborn fits well alongside Dark is the Way as an expression of the band’s obvious 80’s influences and ability to branch far beyond the typical alt-rock boundaries. That is to say, it’s a damn good album.

It’s hard to imagine the rock scene of the past decade without Anberlin. The band not only sparked a fire in the early-aughts post-punk landscape, but also managed a number one single on rock radio and became a nationally recognized name associated with intelligent and thoughtful, but aggressive rock. Their final lineup of Christian, Young, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, and bassist Deon Rexroat has been one of the most formidable and talented lineups in recent memory.

Anberlin will truly be hard to replace. But then again, maybe we don’t have to. With seven solid albums released over the course of 11 years, the band left behind more than a few memories to carry on. Bookending that list is Lowborn, a proper and commendable final chapter.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.