Anberlin
Cities


5.0
classic

Review

by toxin USER (20 Reviews)
September 15th, 2011 | 139 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Break every clock and stay in the moment.

It’s not often that a band makes the leap from creating youthful albums into sophisticated, mature albums, especially on their third LP. But this is exactly what Anberlin did on Cities, jumping from their solid sophomore effort Never Take Friendship Personal. The band takes all the positives from their old albums and transplants them in a far more mature context. The end product is an entirely captivating, diverse, and consistent effort with few valleys and many peaks.

Starting from the beginning feels only appropriate in Cities, and after "(Debut)," “Godspeed” picks up the pace immediately. One immediately notices the maturity in the lyrics, with lead singer Stephen Christian denouncing the rock star culture of drug abuse. Likewise, the drumming is vastly improved in the entire album, and Joseph Milligan shows off a guitar solo. It is the hardest hitting rocker on the album and kicks off the album brilliantly. Likewise, "A Whisper and a Clamor" sees Anberlin making better use of the bridge, with an acoustic breakdown. This fantastically crafted idea deviates from the standard guitar solos of previous efforts. It also features a thoroughly interesting guitar riff in the chorus, and the lyrics---"I grow tired of writing songs/ where people listen but never hear what's really going now"---warn the band's audience to listen carefully to their lyrics. Aside from the improved composition, however, the most noticeable change of the album is the variation. The album contains a few traditional alt-rock rockers (“Godspeed,” “A Whisper and a Clamor,” “Alexithymia”), but fellow upbeat tracks “Reclusion” and “There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss” contain an interesting twist---they are predominately synthesizer-backed. This gives the album much variety, and Anberlin manages to create an accessible feel even on these electronic songs to appeal to their alt-rock base. Indeed, the synth-laden guitar solo in the heavier “Reclusion” and the synth solo of 'There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss" are both highlights of the album. Ultimately, each of the uptempo rockers on the album displays something new from the band, whether a drum and bass intro ("Alexithymia"), creative breakdowns, or effective use of synthesizers.

Anberlin also pull off the acoustic ballads off beautifully. It must be said that Christian has one of the best voices in the entire genre, and it shows on tracks like “Inevitable” and “Unwinding Cable Car.” Anberlin is no stranger to the topic of love, shown in the lyrics of the former, but the sincerity of Christian shines through when he declares to his girl, “I want to be your last first kiss/ that you’ll ever have.” The track is quite beautiful---something you would want played at your wedding. Likewise, the stunningly gorgeous “Unwinding Cable Car,” too, excels lyrically, serving as the yin to “(*fin)”’s yang, and possibly outshines “Inevitable.” Meanwhile, the semi-acoustic "Dismantle.Repair" simultaneously shows the band's ballad and uptempo talents, merging the two into a powerful anthem. It also likely has the strongest chorus of the album. While fan-favorite “Adelaide” and “Hello Alone” are perhaps the closest to missteps on the album, the former is nevertheless extremely catchy and the latter is similarly likable, allowing both to avoid filler status.

Lyrics are the forefront of the album, with Christian himself commenting on how much more introspective and mature the lyrics of the album are, so it seems only appropriate that the band’s lyrical and musical highlight close the album---“(*fin).” The crowning jewel in the diadem of Cities, “(*fin)” displays everything Anberlin is capable of doing. The same acoustic skills displayed in “Unwinding Cable Car” and “Inevitable” are shown in the first three minutes of “(*fin)”. Over a simplistic but haunting guitar melody croons Christian about his struggle with Christianity---a stark contrast from God’s point of view in “Unwinding Cable Car.” The lyrics, borne out of his real life experience and doubt, are so deeply intimate and emotional that one cannot help but be swept along into the song. Then, the song transitions into a full band set, throwing in a children’s choir to soar over Christian’s vocals. While the section is slightly overlong, the guitar solos do much to make the song end as quickly as it starts. Anberlin takes an additional two minutes for an improvised piece as Christian cathartically sings over a lonesome guitar. Somehow, the entire grandiosity of the concept works as the band finishes their masterpiece.

After Cities, many Anberlin fans held out hope for some sort of magnum opus that would use all of the band’s immense talent to forge a nearly perfect album. But perhaps this entire time, that masterpiece has been sitting in their CD collection. At times, it lacks the feel of a classic record, likely due to a preconceived notion about the necessity of grandiosity in the record. It doesn’t feel right that a stripped down song like “Inevitable” can be on a perfect record, but cliché as it sounds, every song contributes to the album. When you listen to Cities, just “break every clock/ and stay in the moment.”

Amen.



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user ratings (1287)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • H. (5)
    I'm never letting go....

    gmang (5)
    "There's more to living than being alive." Cities is an artistic masterpiece that most can...

    SowingSeason STAFF (5)
    “If this is salvation, I can show you the trembling.”...

    thejon93rd (3.5)
    The album is a masterpiece, but not as a whole....

  • AnExitWorthTaking (4.5)
    Anberlin's straight-forward indie rock sound is perfected better than any modern indie roc...

    Michael Roberts (4.5)
    With Cities, Anberlin manage to improve and mature their core pop punk sound while introdu...


Comments:Add a Comment 
toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My first review in a while; feedback is welcome. I may have come off as fanboyish, but if you're 5ing
a record...

Knott-
Emeritus
September 15th 2011


10198 Comments


You seem to imply that a third album is a rare place to mature into something more sophisticated when I would think that's a relatively common place to find such a change.

Album rulez but never saw the 5 in it. 'Inevitable' and 'Dismantle. Repair.' are perfect songs though.

outline
September 15th 2011


563 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Third LP*

tiesthatbind
September 15th 2011


7380 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome review, pospospos

I was actually listening to this today.

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Knott, yeah I kind of do. I might just be wrong here; should I edit it? Tbh it doesn't do much for the review anyways.

And yeah, I didn't think it was a 5 really (as addressed in the conclusion) but after listening to it for maybe the 15th time, it just hit me that this does everything for me that other 5s do.

PistolPete
September 15th 2011


3650 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

why isn't this user my musical neighbour? guy agrees with me on practically everything, pos

easily their best album, NTFP is a close second

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@outline, thanks for the catch.
@ties, thanks. I'd love to see you write a 5 review for thisthis as well (*nudge nudge*)
@pwalcher, heh we may not agree on the order. NTFP is third behind Dark is the Way... but they really alternate depending on my mood. NTFP is like a 4.2 and Dark is the Way... a 4.3 for me.

Waior
September 15th 2011


11461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

whoops i didn't mean to post this review under my xtoxin account

cats out of the box i guess

Knott-
Emeritus
September 15th 2011


10198 Comments


Nah I don't think an edit's important I was just challenging your assertion.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
September 15th 2011


16922 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

album slays walruses

Digging: Low Roar - 0

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@Lakes, wait just a second, I'm sure there's a synth solo in Reclusion. Or is that just a guitar solo
with an effect? (TBH I'm not impressed with the solo in There is no...).

Also, lol Waior O:

Eko
September 15th 2011


2119 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

55555555

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

!! the rating should be higher than a 4 flat. Definitely deserves a 4.2 ish at least

MentalityOfA
September 15th 2011


1213 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I liked your review... just not as much as I like the album. It's okay, though, this album is just too good.

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

That's quite fine; I don't expect to live up to Anberlin anyways!

Waior
September 15th 2011


11461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

While mid-tempo ballads “Adelaide” and “Hello Alone”---the latter of which starts off acoustic but regrettably turns electric halfway through


i don't understand this

neither are mid-tempo nor acoustic for any amount of time

help me understand you better

toxin.
September 15th 2011


12805 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

TBH I don't know why I wrote that about Hello Alone lol. For some reason I thought it started off acoustic (maybe I was thinking Dismantle.Repair but they're not similar at all sooooo Idk).
As for mid-tempo, yeah well I wouldn't call them really upbeat rockers like "Godspeed." I guess by strict definition, neither are mid-tempo, but they have the ballad-y feel to them (as opposed to straight up alt-rock song), and that was the best word I got. That's due to the imprecision of my music vocabulary, I'd say.

NOTINTHEFACE
September 15th 2011


1653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Hello Alone has always been one of my favorite songs on here. IMO the closest thing to a misstep is Reclusion... it's just sort of dull. Also I think the album would have been improved if Inevitable had been replaced by The Haunting and the former were made a b-side, because the Haunting just fits the album better. But that's just me. Album is near-perfect, and those are nitpicks. Great review.

Killerhit
September 15th 2011


5381 Comments


Reclusion doesn't detract. In fact, barely any of these do.

NOTINTHEFACE
September 15th 2011


1653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I see my objectively wrong mistake now. Thanks for correcting me.



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