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Anberlin: A Discography Ranking

I'm finally seeing these fellas this weekend so it's time to rank stuff
Dark Is the Way, Light Is a Place

This album’s major problem is its simplicity, as songs often repeat nothing but the refrain of their own titles and are all too satisfied to call such an act a chorus. “Closer” and “To the Wolves” are the worst offenders of this and are far too bland to be the staple rockers the album wants them to be. Even in its gentler moments, the problem remains. “Take Me (As You Found Me)” and “You Belong Here” are certainly pretty songs but their simple, repetitive execution leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, lead single “Impossible” is an infectious alt-pop song that rings a similar bell to Jimmy Eat World. Deep cuts like “Pray Tell,” the brilliant power ballad “Art of War,” and the achingly gorgeous “Down” are also top-tier Anberlin songs.

Lowborn is Anberlin’s most experimental and daring project, it brings a satisfying sense of closure to their career, and the songwriting is strong across the board. Even when it flies off the deep end with the abrasive “Dissenter” the songwriting keeps it from becoming a complete disaster. The electronic flourishes are tasteful, the ballads are genuinely captivating, and the hooks are plentiful. What keeps it this far down is that it's missing that driving alt-rock sound that made me fall in love with the band. It’s loud but there’s not a lot of energy.
New Surrender

New Surrender, along with my number four pick, are probably two of the most misunderstood albums in the band’s discography. Aside from a couple of unfortunate stains (“Blame Me!….” is almost a blueprint of what would follow on Dark is the Way…. and “Younglife” is overbearingly cheesy), this record is essentially killer song after killer song. A lot of it harkens back to the sound of Blueprints for the Black Market so it bleeds a youthful, punk attitude and thrives in the prospect of throwing hands in the air and having the time of your life.
Blueprints for the Black Market

For many fans, this frequently lands on the bottom slot because of its problems as a debut and I wouldn’t be the least tempted to debate them on that. But I love this album for the same reason I love New Surrender. It’s a record with a slightly emo aesthetic that’s brimming with youthful energy and emotion. It’s also a more consistent venture than New Surrender as it isn’t held back by any truly weak moments. Most everything on here sticks the landing and its lack of polish is something I admire.

On Vital, Anberlin made their statement album: a tour-de-force of hard, electronic-tinged rock. It marked the biggest change in sound from the band until Lowborn hit shelves two years later. Vital is loud, aggressive, beautifully lush, and mature from beginning to end. It managed to greatly shake things up without sacrificing the qualities that made Anberlin as good as they were.
Never Take Friendship Personal

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been going back and forward between these last two records deciding what should ultimately land in the number one slot. In the end, the only right conclusion I could make is that both of these albums represent the pinnacle of Anberlin’s sound so it all depends on what aspect of their sound you prefer most. Never Take Friendship Personal, their sophomore record, is the pinnacle of their punk/emo style and perfects what was established on Blueprints… The riffs are punchy, Stephen Christian belts out a couple of screams, the melodies soar; as an album, it’s simply a great time.

Cities is THE Anberlin record. It’s the one that has been heralded as an alt-rock classic and one of the best albums of the prior decade period. I have always loved it but I’ve also hesitated to call it a masterpiece over the years, despite it being the album that got me hooked on the band in the beginning. This recent revisit of their discography has finally settled it for me. I can say with confidence that Cities is Anberlin’s best album. It builds upon the driving alt-rock of past records while simultaneously injecting it with a generous dose of synths and stunning acoustic elements. Urgent yet sorrowful darkness permeates this record from beginning to end and like many fans have passionately stated it provides one of the most memorable and emotionally gripping journeys in alt-rock of the past twenty years. It all culminates in the utter masterpiece that is “(*Fin).”
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