Anberlin
New Surrender


4.0
excellent

Review

by toxin USER (20 Reviews)
October 30th, 2011 | 53 replies | 2,346 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A remarkably consistent offering from a band transitioning into the mainstream.

6 of 6 thought this review was well written

I have always found it puzzling when bands denounce their albums. On one hand, a band that indulged in laziness and derivative songwriting certainly owes it to their fans---nay, to themselves---to apologize for the subpar work. But where exactly does that leave us when the band created, in fact, a remarkably strong and consistent effort? Weezer did the same with Pinkerton; after critics and fans alike trashed the album, they followed in the same vein, practically disowning the album. How foolish must they have felt when critics and fans made a complete 180 on the album a few years later, instead heralding it as one of the best albums of the 1990s? Anberlin falls in the same category with New Surrender, their major label debut. It’s too easy to blame Universal Records and to point to the one year creation time as evidence of some sort of letdown; why not, instead, look at the music?

The reality of the album is that Anberlin crafted their most consistent album with New Surrender. Sure, the album lacks in the gem department, with none of the songs truly on the level of (*fin) or ‘Unwinding Cable Car.’ But then again, by which criteria are we measuring the album? Maybe the highlights of the albums would have had comparatively more luster if they paired up against ‘Adelaide’ instead of the stronger ‘Breaking.’ Of course, the influence of a capital-driven record company will add a notably radio-friendly vibe to the album, but does broad appeal automatically make a release poor? After all, this is Anberlin, a band that has teetered on the verge of the mainstream anyways.

After a good listen to New Surrender, listeners familiar with Anberlin’s previous work will be surprised with the glut of mid-tempo rockers and ballads, as the band surprisingly ditches the standard alt-rock norm. This is not to say the album lacks aggression; in contrast, this is a marked improvement over Cities. Opener ‘The Resistance’ shows Stephen Christian at his best; the song forsakes a lot of catchiness for pure aggression. It’s slower-paced than its Cities counterpart ‘Godspeed’ and a lot heavier, and you know Christian means every word as he yells, “Take what you want, you paper tigers/ Too late to make demands, when you’ve got a riot on your hand.” A surprising inclusion in New Surrender is a remade version of ‘The Feel Good Drag.’ Whether or not the song is better than the original is less important to the fact that it was remade. What better than to get the record company off your back by promising to rerecord a strong single that, when re-released with more publicity and a better name, is likely to fare extremely well? It works perfectly within the album, too, adding much-needed punch to a middle section lacking exactly that. Keeping the aggression, Anberlin rolls out ‘Disappear,’ its more punk-influenced chorus shining in the album.The lyrics to the chorus of 'Disappear'---“Alone, left alone/ Watch us slowly disappear with time/ Alone, left alone/ Forgotten, lost, and left behind”---is standard Anberlin fare, nothing poor but nothing quite exceptional. This can be held true of most of the lyrics on New Surrender---not as passionate or sincere as their previous effort's 'Inevitable' or '(*fin)' but good enough to avoid dragging the album down.

Of course, the uptempo songs were never the issue with most people in the first place. What we see in New Surrender is Anberlin exchange the alternative rock numbers for more atmospheric ballads. Gone are the days of ‘There is No Mathematics to Love or Loss’ and ‘A Whisper in their Clamor’; taking their place are ‘Haight St.’ and ‘Younglife.’ These are different from standard arena ballads: with fantastic production, each of these similarly-tempo'd songs manages to sound different, thus avoiding homogeneity in the middle of the album. Despite the uninspired chorus, the light guitar chords and clearly audible bassline of ‘Younglife’ create a noticeably light environment. Both ‘Retrace’ and ‘Haight St.’ likewise are extremely successful at creating their moods. The former has one of the best verses of the album and the latter is an almost pop-punk anthem to youth with an entirely appropriate message of carpe diem.

However, Anberlin is best when within their comfort level. 'Breathe' is the token acoustic track, and is a gorgeous melody. Christian's comfort is palpable as he sings about his faith. Likewise, the infectious 'Breaking' harkens back to the band's earlier efforts with bouncy piano chords and probably the catchiest chorus in the album. Anberlin has a knack for closing albums strongly, and thankfully they do not disappoint here either. Soft Skeletons is possibly the strongest song on New Surrender. The song corresponds a heartrending tale of drug abuse, and Christian's empathetic yet emphatic delivery matches the melodic guitar parts. Yet the most impressive of the album, as usual, is the closer, ‘Miserabile Visu.’ It took a while for the song to grow on me, but it is an extremely remarkable song. It merges the atmospheric verses with lines full of Biblical imagery and deep lyrics. Of course it all crescendos into a grandiose ending, and while it may not live up to (*fin), it sure as hell does a good job trying.

New Surrender sees Anberlin putting a newfound emphasis on atmosphere. Variation, which occurred in Cities through tempo and pacing, appears as atmosphere and aggression levels. That is a decidedly more subtle and mature approach to take. And while Cities is clearly the superior record, there is no doubt in my mind that this album is more mature. It really comes as no surprise that I did not have to mention the guitarists, bassist, or drummer---the band functions as one cohesive unit, for better or for worse. In one perspective, the entirely competent drummer and guitarist are overshadowed by the perfectly produced atmosphere; in another perspective, the atmosphere is such a fundamental catalyst in driving forward the album that they are more in the forefront collectively than ever. I suppose it is the same with New Surrender, actually. It really just depends what angle you look at the album from. From mine, what it aims to do, it does well.



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user ratings (848)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
peartnoy (3.5)
New Surrender is disappointing, but there are enough moments of greatness here to make it recommenda...

Ryan Cleary (4.5)
Anberlin is back, and their much anticipated 2008 release, New Surrender, does much to please any ca...

Channing Freeman (4.5)
Too late to make demands, when you've got a riot on your hands....

Brent Stephenson (4)
Though it might not be a contender for album of the year, it is definitely a solid and highly enjoya...


Comments:Add a Comment 
toxin.
October 30th 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Needed to take a break from college apps and write something that I wanted to. It's longer than my
other reviews, as I wanted to be more detailed.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
October 30th 2011



14512 Comments


Very good review xtoxin. Read the whole thing and I agree with almost all of it. This is one of Anberlin's strongest efforts, I don't know why people trash it...Resistance is one of the most badass songs they ever recorded (aside from the original Feel Good Drag...I really wish they didn't re-record it with this watered down version), Breaking/Retrace/Breathe all contain gorgeous melodies, and Miserabile Visu is their second best song overall behind *Fin. Anyway, easy pos.

Waior
October 30th 2011



11420 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is an excellent review - a little long but I'm the last person to complain about that, aren't I? Very well expressed and while I don't agree with much of what you said, I can safely say I now understand the reasoning behind your rating... which is most certainly what a review should do. Super-pos.

All I really love from this are the last two tracks... everything is just lame.

LG
October 30th 2011



3049 Comments


Dont much care for this album anymore

toxin.
October 30th 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, SS. I was pretty surprised at the negative backlash around here, but I guess it deviates so much from Cities' formula that some can't help but to feel the album as watery.

And thanks to you, too, Waior. You did have all of Anberlin's albums slightly higher, so I suppose at one point you agreed with my opinion more. Soft Skeletons and Miserabile Visu are both great, but I'm surprised you don't like The Resistance more, at the very least.

@LG, that's a shame, but a 3.5 is still a pretty high rating regardless.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 30th 2011



8957 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Mammoth review, but you can write man. Keep it up. pos for sure

Digging: Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt

toxin.
October 30th 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks FDH, I appreciate it.

Eko
October 30th 2011



2119 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Breaking and Breathe always take too much flak and Feel Good Drag is overrated. otherwise review is great and first paragraph is win

toxin.
October 30th 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like 'Breaking' for what it is... I mean the chorus's lyrics tell you everything about the song ("You make breaking hearts look so easy") but it's ridiculously catchy. I think 'Breathe' is their weakest acoustic song, at least from their last three albums (can't remember if their first two had any acoustic tracks in the first place). I don't know, I've just never dug it.

'Feel Good Drag' got me into Anberlin, but I can see where you're coming from. And thanks, Eko!



LG
October 31st 2011



3049 Comments


I'd say this is more of 2.5-3...but I'm leaving my original score out of my love for this band.

toxin.
November 1st 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ah, I see. Yeah it seems like we're opposites. I had this at about a 3 when I first heard it, but on subsequent listens I started liking it more. I can see where you're coming from, though.

DeadStarShine
November 2nd 2011



773 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Congratulations, very good review. I resumed it in my sound off, so I agree with what you had to say. For me, this is still Anberlin's very best release.

LG
November 2nd 2011



3049 Comments


imo their newest album is their best

toxin.
November 2nd 2011



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks, DSS. I sort of agree with some of what you have to say, but I do think Cities is better in terms of standouts. This has a whole lot of solid-strong songs that I enjoy listening to, but I don't really remember them that well.

LG, imo it's their second best. I'll eventually review that (After a few other albums). I really like the direction they took on it, even though other Anberlin diehards disagree.

toxin.
October 23rd 2012



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Had to edit this review. My opinions have changed (really like Breathe and Breaking now) and wanted this review to reflect that.

Huh, I guess my views are much more in line with Eko now.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2012



8957 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Are you back for the foreseeable future? I dig having you around.

toxin.
October 23rd 2012



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I should be. Senior year was a blast but I can't spend everyday hanging out with friends anymore. More computer time = more Sputnik. Also I need to catch up on new music. Not sure about reviewing though---I haven't been inspired enough to finish my Vital review, which says a lot.

Besides, I like Sputnik better now. Everyone seems much friendlier. Also seems like SS is one of the more preeminent Sputnik personalities now (?) and he's way nicer than other staff like Chan, Downer, Hanson

Ecnalzen
October 23rd 2012



5859 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think out of all their albums, this one has the most of my top Anberlin songs.

toxin.
October 23rd 2012



11811 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, it's the opposite for me. I really enjoy a lot of these songs, but nothing here wow's me besides Miserabile Visu, and I've never been able to dig that song as much as (*fin).

Still, this has a glut of very good songs--- The Resistance, FGD, Soft Skeletons. Breaking is one of their best "teenage girl" songs and Breathe is really nice but not as great as some of their other purely acoustic songs on Cities.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2012



8957 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Aw, I always liked Hanson.
I agree though, the user base has mellowed out a lot. Most of the trolls are gone and Pit is allowed to be nice now. Sowing is definitely one of the more prominent staffers now, although that may be due to less staff presence now than I've ever seen before.
Reviewing, especially with me, has always come in waves. I'll write like one a month for a really long time and all of a sudden I'll get inspired and I'll come back (I'm in that phase right now). Perhaps you'll catch the fever again.



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