Reflecting On: Anberlin – New Surrender

“When I was 13 / I had my first love / There was nobody that compares to my baby / And nobody came between us / No one could ever come above”.

What does Ludacris’ verse on Justin Bieber’s critically acclaimed single “Baby” have to do with Anberlin? If you’re like me: Everything.

You can buy or stream New Surrender on Apple Music.

When I was 13, I thought I knew everything there was to know about music. I thought Tooth and Nail was the best record label. I was trying to come into my own personality. In reality, I was just pretentious and nobody wanted to listen to the cool music I found because of my attitude. The biggest band for me during that time period was Anberlin. They opened the door to the rest of the alt rock world and still continue to blow me away today.

When I found them, I was listening to my favorite internet station, RadioU. The band’s cover of New Order’s “True Faith” was playing and I was obsessed with the guitar riff. I know, weird to get into a band via a song that’s not even theirs. If you actually listen to the track, though, (you’ll have to do so on YouTube, as it’s no longer on Spotify), it sounds authentically Anberlin. It took me a while to find out who it was (it being the radio and all), but once I did, there was no turning back. I became a fan of Anberlin—a Fanberlin, if you will.

All of this brings me to their 2008 release, New Surrender. The album is criminally underrated. It came a mere year after what many claim is their greatest achievement, Cities. It can be tempting to write off the album that comes after a band’s best, and oftentimes, you’d be correct to do that. But with New Surrender, I think you’d be wrong to.

I’ll admit that the album isn’t Anberlin’s strongest. It came in a tumultuous period in the band’s history. They’d just signed to a major label and released the best album of their career. It’s hard to put your best foot forward as that kind of pressure mounts. So the band gave it a shot. New Surrender isn’t hard-hitting like Cities was, and it’s not quite as melodically pleasing like Never Take Friendship Personal. The album, though, has some of the most meaningful lyrics Anberlin has to offer. From the emotional and mildly petty “Breaking” to the thematically heavy “Soft Skeletons”, the band really gave something for everyone.

Here is an overview of some of my favorite tracks:

“Breaking”, simply because it’s a classic. There’s no Anberlin without “Breaking”. If you disagree, you can come fight me. You know I’m right.

“Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights)” because of the story. The song was written because of an episode of plane turbulence and basically reckoning with the fact that it could all be over in a second, making the most of what we have and the time we have to enjoy it.

“Younglife” has a special meaning for me lately in a way it hasn’t previously. I used to think fondly of high school and hanging out with my friends and messing around, like in the first verse. But as I think about my upcoming marriage, I think about the second verse: “Hey lover / Do you remember when / We used to dance in our apartment ‘till neighbors would knock on our door / And I remember / Do you remember when / We had no money to speak of / Nowhere else to eat but your floor / I wanna do it again”.

“Haight St.” has that same kind of connotation for me. It’s a fun track and one of the band’s more upbeat offerings, so there’s that for a stylistic approach. The whole album just holds this intense nostalgia as I’m looking back at my younger days. Old enough to know, too young to care.

So I don’t know if this has been so much of a reflection as it has been a, “Hey this album is still very relevant!” That’s what makes New Surrender timeless. It brought me through high school and the weird turbulence that is adolescence and now it’s here to remind me of the little things like building my first dining room table. It’s a picture of how to hone in on the finer points of life.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Podcast: The Best of Anberlin

Later this month, New Surrender turns 10 years old. Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva took the album’s anniversary as an opportunity to discuss Anberlin’s legacy and the impact of their major label debut. They break down Anberlin’s discography, rank their favorite songs, and share some of their favorite memories of one of the most influential and underrated bands in the history of the scene. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite Anberlin album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Anberlin – Cities

anberlin_photo_2007

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.