Christian emo? Gimme a break, I hear you groan. Ah, but Anberlin will make you a believer by playing explosive hooks, singing provocative lyrics and taking enough risks to make this Florida-based quintet's counterparts – I'm talking to you, Fall Out Boy and Hawthorne Heights – bow their heads in shame. Cities, Anberlin's third album, deserves to catapult the band to mainstream success. That said, many of the record's dozen songs are too good (and too smart) for mainstream American radio.
This clean-livin', highly likeable group of guys aren't afraid to turn the genre on its side with prominent strings ("Inevitable"), stellar acoustic pieces ("The Unwinding Cable Car") and even a sprawling U2-like epic with a children's choir ("*Fin"). Of course, there's also plenty of standard power-pop-punk fare in the storming first single "Godspeed" and the catchy as, ahem, hell "Adelaide."
The album's uplifting lyrics, subtle when it comes to overt religious messages, nevertheless challenge listeners with more than the genre's standard "I love you" and "I'm leaving you" frat-boy schtick. A line in "A Whisper & A Clamor" encourages people to accept that challenge: "I grow tired of writing songs, where people listen but never hear what's really going on." This certainly is a band beyond its years – making Anberlin stand tall in a field of mostly regrettable groups that no doubt repel most listeners over the age of 23.
4) A Whisper & A Clamor
5) The Unwinding Cable Car
6) There Is No Mathematics to Love and Loss
7) Hello Alone
11) Dismantle. Repair.