This Is the Correlation of Salvation and Love: My Top 20 Anberlin Songs

There are favorite bands that I’ve known all along I felt a special connection with. Then there are bands that become favorites much later on, either because I didn’t know they existed until several albums deep into their discography, or I just didn’t think at first that they were for me. Anberlin is one of those weird cases where I was into the band from pretty much the beginning, but didn’t realize how deep of a connection I felt to their music until almost the end. I also didn’t realize how much it meant to certain other folks in my life until the clock was running out on our chances to actually enjoy the band’s music as a communal experience.

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Muse – Simulation Theory: Propaganda is BAD!!! Also, here’s some propaganda.

Artist: Muse
Album: Simulation Theory
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: A kinder, gentler Muse than we last heard on Drones somehow manages to be ridiculous and over-the-top (as usual) without being enough of either of those things for it to really matter. Mining the nostalgia of our childhood and marrying that to modern sounds in off-the-wall ways is fun and all, but when this record tries to throw its hat into the ring of contemporary political discourse, it comes across as vague, outdated, and honestly a tad hypocritical. This is not a great Muse record, but it’s a catchy one, I guess.

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St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Young Sick Camellia: Jesus ain’t the problem, but he started one.

Artist: St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Album: Young Sick Camellia
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: A wonderfully diverse collection of songs that pay tribute to classic Southern soul and R&B influences while also leaving room for stylistic experimentation. Paul Janeway is a powerhouse vocalist, and the horn section and the rest of the band are incredibly tight. Really, the only thing keeping this record from unmitigated greatness is that it’s a bit short on content, having only 9 true songs (which is somewhat cleverly disguised by a series of short interludes and a bonus track).

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Lo Moon: Here’s a new genre for you… Sophisti-gaze.

Artist: Lo Moon
Album: Lo Moon
Year: 2018
Grade: C+

In Brief: While Lo Moon’s synthesis of 80s pop and shoegaze aesthetics and their attention to background detail are commendable, there’s not enough interesting stuff in the foreground (hooks, riffs, variance in tempo and intensity, etc.) to make the album listening experience a particularly eventful one.

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Kevin Max – AWOL: All the people from the past just want it to last.

Artist: Kevin Max
Album: AWOL
Year: 2018
Grade: B+

In Brief: KMax once again proves himself to be more of a musical chameleon than a profound poet or a true innovator… but he obviously had a lot of fun taking a trip down memory lane on this heavily 80s-influenced album, and that makes the music quite infectious, even if it might not be terribly original.

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Chvrches and Lo Moon live @ The Greek Theatre: They were a kaleidoscope.

There are certain bands whose recorded material I’m absolutely over the moon for, and yet who I feel hesitant about seeing live. Chvrches was one of those bands, right up until a friend decided to get tickets to their Love Is Dead tour when it rolled through Los Angeles. They are absolute wizards of synthpop in the studio, and all three members of the band are capable of playing multiple instruments. Yet when a band plays a style of music that is sufficiently programmed, I often wonder if it’s worth showing up just to watch them press buttons on laptops. As it turns out, that’s not at all a fair characterization of Chvrches’ live shows, where really all that comes pre-recorded is the background effects and loops – the synths, bass, whatever guitar parts their songs might occasionally feature, and most obviously the vocals, are all performed live. For their latest tour, they’ve also added a live drummer. This type of music can get me really excited when delivered with a sufficient amount of live energy, and I should have known better than to doubt Chvrches in this regard. Their three studio albums thus far have been about as close to uniformly excellent as the discography of any band in my collection, so of course their setlist was going to be packed with wall-to-wall favorites, almost no matter what they chose to play. This might have been a little more expensive of a show, with a slightly bigger crowd, than I’m used to when I go to concerts these days, but at no point in the evening did I doubt that this would be 100% worth it.

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The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful: And I shall give thee moderate cause to rejoice.

Artist: The Killers
Album: Wonderful Wonderful
Year: 2017
Grade: B-

In Brief: The Killers are probably always going to strike me as a highly inconsistent band. I can’t decide whether I want them to be more serious or more silly, and they often swerve in one direction when I’d expect them to go in the other. But they make a good case for both sides of their personality on their fifth album, which shows some genuine maturity in places without casting off their fun, glammy side. I’d say it’s their best work since Hot Fuss, actually.

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Arcade Fire – Everything Now: It goes on and on, I don’t know what I want.

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Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: Everything Now
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: While I really enjoy the disco-rock sound and the theme of media oversaturation, it’s a genre exercise that has its limits, and the repetitive choruses make those limits painfully clear. I enjoy this one more than a lot of Arcade Fire’s fanbase seems to, but I think they need to change things up and truly surprise us again when they get around to making album #6.

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The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep…: I like it when album titles are short, for they’re less of a pain to type.

2016_The1975_ILikeItWhenYouSleepForYouAreSoBeautifulYetSoUnawareofIt

Artist: The 1975
Album: I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It
Year: 2016
Grade: B-

In Brief: I go back and forth between “bold experiment” and “sprawling mess” when trying to describe this 17-track opus. It’s not at all what you’d expect based on its singles, and at times the detours can try my patience, but they cover a lot of stylistic ground here, and I’m actually drawn to their introverted side more than I would have expected.

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My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall: Mostly on the right side of that thin line between loving it and wasting my time.

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Artist: My Morning Jacket
Album: The Waterfall
Year: 2015
Grade: B+

In Brief: The most musically unified and consistently enjoyable album I’ve heard from MMJ thus far. It doesn’t jump all over the place musically as much as their last two records, but it still has a strong 70s folk rock/jam bad/psychedelic vibe, and I love it all the more due to how committed they are to that aesthetic this time around.

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