First listen album review: Anberlin - Vital

by - Saturday, November 03, 2012

currently: eating cranberries.

So after a week of waiting, my end of semester gift finally arrived in the mail yesterday!

Anberlin's newest album, Vital. Look at that beautiful embossing.

Anyway, I've been wanting to sit down and listen to this album for a while now from beginning to end, share my thoughts on it and what not. But for me to write a decent review on it is a bit time consuming, and may take me an extra day or two to sort that out. So - here I present a new album review challenge. The first listen review.

Here are the rules.
I have 42 minutes to write about this album. 11 tracks. Listening to them in order that it is being played. Record all fresh thoughts in the time the song is playing. I will admit I have heard a couple of the songs already off Youtube, but everything else will be of a first listen.
I'll admit, usually I like listening to the album a few times so I can grow attached to songs but not for this review. Maybe I'll go back and note which ones are my faves later.

Anyway - are we ready? Time to hit play.

1) Self Starter:
Okay this is one of the songs I've already heard of but man, that solid drum intro is amazing. I adore Nate Young's work.
I love the backing of female voices behind Stephen Christian's. That added depth compliments him. He has this real raw and emotionally desperate voice that makes him fantastic to listen to.
That grungy guitar motif - classic Anberlin.
This is a great opening track. So much raw energy and vocals in this song. "Why stay till you see blood?"

2) Little Tyrants:
Ohhh man, layers of guitar screeching. Fantastic.
Gotta admit, I have no idea what Stephen is singing. But that energy from the first track has definitely still carried on.
Wow, Stephen has really stretched his vocals. It definitely does not have the usual produced polish from previous albums. It's a more rugged Anberlin feel. Like if you were to take Anberlin out into a Bear Grylls adventure - it would come back like this.
I am in love with the guitar. And the chanting - great break.
It's still a bit difficult to figure out what is being sung.

3) Other Side:
Okay, definitely different intro here. Key work being used. Maybe a bit of a new electric/80s vibe?
This one is a bit more different to describe. But I love the electric piano sound. Stephen's echoy vocals - a classic feel.
There's definitely a lot of layers to this track which will mean another listen soon.
"Love me, love me, why don't you know me...trust me" oh the ending of this and the emotion in Stephen's voice is so strong. Ooh, drum outro. Like a street feel to it.

4) Someone Anyone:
This I've also heard before. It feels like work from Anberlin's last album but man I still enjoy it. The chorus is damn catchy. And the guitar is the shining element here.
The vocals are a bit playful with notes. But the build up and pure rock of the music is something I could definitely picture a massive crowd dancing to.
Oh, a pause for a bit of a 90s moment? The electric chorus. Was there a bit of autotune? Great headbanging tune anyway.

5) Intentions:
Nice heavy distorted guitar intro and the electric key work again making an appearance. There's definitely a good feel of evolution from the previous album here, taking a turn with an electric keyboard. I'm trying to describe what sort of band I could name a similarity to but it's hard to pinpoint. Maybe it will come to me later. Is it a Kimbra/Ellie Goulding thing I'm thinking of? I have no idea.

6) Innocent:
Woah, different intro here too. Maybe we are tripping back to 80s/90s vibes here.
Okay, chorus. Definitely that new electronic vibe. Is there autotune on Stephen's voice? Maybe it's Coldplay/Lights sense I'm picking up here. The motif feels like a Coldplay song. Like their song Strawberry Swing.
I do like the lyrics though. "We were all born the innocent. We were born to run carefree. You will live on in the hearts of men constantly." Anberlin has written great songs about being young and finding freedom in the past. (Autobahn, Haight St. etc). I can't get over how 80s feeling this sounds. I know this song will grow on me more (sucker for Anberlin ballads) but it's different.

7) Desires:
Oh and in a complete contrast, it's back to intensely heavy guitar and drum rock. It's all rage and rock here.
I love it when Anberlin takes quiet little breaks in these types of songs though, in the break between verses and chorus. Before it builds and releases all their noise in the chorus.

8) Type Three:
A soft violin orchestra! There's a lot of production on Stephen's voice in this intro. I don't know how I feel about that.
"Don't bite the hand that feeds you baby" - okay that last baby sounded really odd and unnaturally low for some reason.
2 minutes in and this song isn't very strong in my opinion. Maybe its because I have a problem with that line?
Actually am I even saying that line right? Or has it just developed to "Don't fight the hand that leads you baby"? I'm not a fan of this song, sorry Anberlin.

9) Orpheum:
Piano intro - could sound like a Coldplay song.
Oh wait, beat picks up. Now it feels like a Jack Mannequin song.
And now the guitar and drum comes in. It feels like Anberlin again.
This is another song hard to describe. There's quite a few elements going at once. This needs a second listening to later.
and now the ending feels like a Jimmy Eat World song off Invented.

10) Modern Age:
Spacey intro. Oh and this heavy sound again feels like an old Anberlin track from Cities or something. I love the drum beat in this one.
Hmm, I kinda spaced out during the song. All the harmonies and stuff just took me out for a while. And now the song has ended. I can't remember how I feel.

11) God, Drugs & Sex:
Okay, with a title like that, I'm expecting intensely deep Anberlin lyrics. It's a very slow sounding song.
And as I was listening to the lyrics, a female voice comes in. I quite like this! It's a bit like a conversation within the song. Ohhhh and the harmonies between them in this chorus are absolutely dreamy. It's a great touch to have that female voice in it. This is a real epic track to finish with. A bit like a dramatic finale symphony. And now there's this choir singing "Let go, let go of me now." Is it too much to call this like an Anberlin version of Bohemium Rhapsody? Minus the drama but it's very poetic.
And the song dies off with a fade.

Wow.

I needed to take a deep breath after that.
Okay, stand out tracks - definitely Self-Starter, Someone Anyone, Innocent and God, Drugs & Sex. Some tracks need to grow on me. I spent a lot of time thinking in the middle of the album about why certain elements felt so familiar from other artists. I'm unsure how I feel about the evolution to electronic sounds. It feels to work for some, not so much others. So I can't say whether or not I love the album on the whole. It's very different.

Tell me your thoughts and how you felt about it. I'm gonna go for a second listen now. :)

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