Allie & Anberlin

Favorites. It’s really difficult for me to single out something and say with certainty “This is my favorite”. When someone asks me to name a favorite whatever I freeze and feel all sorts of anxiety. I have no idea why. There’s probably a thousand reasons and a psychologist between me and the answer but I very rarely pick favorites. Not so this week. This week it’s all about Anberlin. I’ve been carrying on about their latest album all week on twitter and I just had to write more about it because my excitement cannot be contained.

Ages ago I used to listen to Air1 while working on college assignments. Hooray internet that could handle streaming music! (I am a child of the dial-up era.) There’s a much longer story about listening to “Contemporary Christian” music but this is about an alternative song that I first heard on that station my sophomore year. That song was “Change the World” by Anberlin. I don’t remember the exact feelings I had when listening to that song but I’m replaying it now, listening to it as I write, and I just feel. But back to college. A friend of mine also liked their music and gave me a copy of their first album Blueprints for the Black Market. And I loved it. Glass to the Arson and Cadence are still some of my favorite songs. I spent a lot of time driving in college and I will unashamedly say that I sing in my car when I’m by myself. Usually loudly, and usually pretty badly. But I don’t care because it’s fun. This CD got a lot of play.

Time passed, as it does. I was busy with a double major and working to put myself through college. That second part inevitably resulted in not having much spending cash. I didn’t keep up on music for a few years and didn’t get Anberlin’s next two albums when they were released but I did eventually get them and fell further in love.

Never Take Friendship Personal is their second album. This played pretty much on repeat when Michael and I drove up to see his family for the holidays. That was a 9+ hour trip each way so that’s quite a few replays. Paperthin Hymn is simply amazing. It gives me chills. The sound of the album is different from Blueprints but not in a “what were they thinking?” way. It’s more like evolutionary, which is actually what I think about all of their albums.

I don’t remember when, exactly, that I got Cities but there are so many excellent songs on it that it further cemented my love for the band. Godspeed, A Whisper & A Clamour, Unwinding Cable Car, Dismantle Repair, Inevitable, Hello Alone are all such fantastic songs. And the last song. What can I say about (*Fin)? The lyrics are so absolutely fitting to things I was and have been going through that it’s impossible to put into words what I feel when listening to it. It’s long but so, so worth listening to.

New Surrender was their first album on the Universal Republic label. Many fans seem to think it their weakest release and I have to admit that there are only one or two songs that would make it in to an all time favorites list. However, it’s still great music. I think it deserves more love. While writing this post I listened to some of the songs again and I think that while it may not have the immediate draw that the other albums have it’s still Anberlin and isn’t an oddball at all.

Before the release of their fifth album I found out that the band was on twitter. Twitter is an amazing tool when used properly. Updating fans about when new music is coming out? Proper use. (I was ridiculously happy when I got the notification that they were following back. Now to get them to @ me!)

That album was Dark Is The Way, Light Is a Place. Pray Tell was one of the first songs that I remember listening to off of this album. It’s the song that made me think holy crap, Stephen Christian (lead vocalist) is fantastic. It’s evident on all of the other previous albums but Pray Tell is just that good of a song. Not everyone could sing something like that. The whole album is full of fantastic songs. This is also the first album of theirs that I listened to and thought hey, this is a really new sound from them but it is still Anberlin. That’s also probably evident with their other albums but this is where it got me. I have played the hell out of this album. Again, I have issues with favorites, but this and Cities were tied for favorite Anberlin album.

Then. Then. Again, because of twitter, I saw when they first announced that they were working on a sixth album. And then I learned that they were going to be working once again with Aaron Sprinkle, the producer they worked with on their first three albums. At that point I said to myself “I hope that this album has all of the best parts of the first three but uses the sounds from Dark Is The Way and once again shows a new sound for the band that is still quintessentially Anberlin.” They announced that the name of the album was Vital and weeks later came the update that Self-Starter, the first song on the album, was online. When I finally got to listen to it I waited with crossed fingers.

I didn’t have to wait long. By the time the chorus came around, heck as soon as I heard the intro, I knew that they had done exactly what I’d hoped for. The band has introduced more electronic and synth elements and they’ve evolved again. Still Anberlin, but newer and better but not in a way that makes their previous albums obsolete. They followed with Someone Anyone and I was further convinced that this was going to be an excellent album. I almost broke the replay button listening to those two songs. I was hooked.

That was in August. The album wasn’t going to be released until October 16. At the time it felt like forever but I remained stupidly excited. Then a whole bunch of stuff happened. You wouldn’t know it to look at my blog archives but the last two months have been ridiculous, mostly not in a good way. Maybe someday I’ll write about it. Anyway, sitting here today it feels like it wasn’t all that long ago that I first heard the songs and started rabidly awaiting October 16.

Cover Art for Anberlin’s sixth album, Vital.

Then October 11 came and Anberlin announced that there was a live stream of Vital available to listen to. I may have immediately ran to my laptop to get that up ASAP. And then the magic happened. I listened through once or twice (or thrice) and was blown away. There was just a few more days to wait but I wanted it for my own right then.

Late Monday night I saw that the download was available but I was already in bed. I wanted to sleep that night so I waited. So Tuesday I woke up and started arguing with iTunes about accepting my information so I could pay for my preorder. And then it was mine. I’ve listened to it through close to ten times by now. More, since it’s taken me a while to write this. I cannot get enough of it. I keep tweeting about it because I cannot keep it to myself. I’ve even posted on Facebook and I barely post anything at all there because Reasons. I don’t even know why I can’t shut up about it. As previously stated, I don’t pick favorites. But Vital is so… perfect. I cannot pick a favorite song. I cannot pick a least favorite song. I love the whole thing. The music is amazing. The vocals are fantastic. The lyrics are wonderful. I realize at this point I’m gushing but seriously. I think this is the best album I have ever listened to. Listening to it makes me happy. When I’m not listening to it I’m thinking about the songs. OK maybe that’s obsessive but there is something to these songs that is making me feel. It really is all of the best parts of their previous albums and is so much more and exciting.

I can say that at this time, this is my most favorite album and Anberlin is pretty solidly my most favorite band ever. I’ve been listening to all of their albums on shuffle this morning and it just doesn’t get old. There’s no “skip skip skip skip OK skip skip YES skip skip skip” going on. Just one good song after another.

I am so, so lucky that this came out when it did. Like I said, the past two months have been ridiculous and not in a good way. There’s been a lot of drama, uncertainty, and disappointment. I haven’t been blogging because I just can’t figure anything out. Having this music, and their music from over the years (even New Surrender!) is just… perfect. This album is perfection. It’s helping me to focus on the good things that are happening. The fact that I’ve listened to this band through college, marriage, health issues and work issues, and now everything else that’s going on is beyond words.

If I’ve managed to persuade you to at least give a listen, several of the songs I’ve mentioned are available for full streaming on their SoundCloud. The live stream of Vital is no longer available but the album can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, and at Best Buy. (I really want the Best Buy exclusive for the bonus tracks! But the bonus track available on iTunes is also definitely worth getting.)

Disclosure: I have received no compensation for this post. This is all because of true adoration for this band. None of the links in this post are affiliate links. I just want EVERYONE to listen to and enjoy this band.