Anberlin’s major-label debut disappoints

Anberlin
“New Surrender”
2.5 stars out of 5

Florida Christian rock quintet Anberlin have had a mainstream sound since their inception in the early 2000s, so it’s a bit surprising it took until their fourth record to be scooped up by a major label. But rather than serving as a coming-out party for this highly deserving band, “New Surrender” (their second record in less than two years) comes across as a rushed effort that does little to move the group forward.

This first release from Universal is typical of Anberlin’s previous efforts. There are plenty of chugging guitars, crashing cymbals and anthems. Stephen Christian’s vocals are as glossy and streamlined as ever, often double-tracked and layered to excess. While this grandiose sound was expected and almost welcomed on their past efforts, the lack of innovation this time around wears thin.

It is surprising that lead single, “The Feel Good Drag,” is a re-recording of a song that was first released three years ago.

The inescapable highlight of the record is “Breaking,” an absolutely shimmering slice of guitar pop. Effortlessly accessible grandeur like this is what made 2005’s “Never Take Friendship Personal” and 2007’s “Cities” irrefutable highlights of mid-2000’s alt-rock.

Unfortunately, “New Surrender” bears the sour taste of another rushed, cut-and-paste major-label affair.

Key Tracks: “Breaking”

Army Navy
“Army Navy”
4 stars out of 5

Justin Kennedy, the frontman of Army Navy, started off in a group with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, but the project didn’t last long before the two went their separate ways. The most recent of Kennedy’s musical endeavors is a straightforward guitar-pop band, producing a sound that is hardly complex, but immensely likable.

The dozen songs making up their debut record are sunny, friendly tunes that are sometimes damn catchy. Kennedy has a knack for writing great hooks, and his band does a fine job fleshing out the melodies behind his songwriting. He even gets some all-star help from drummer Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Thomas gives the sugary harmonies punch and provides the album with a rhythmic backbone.

The average track length is around four minutes, far too long for the simplistic pop found on the album. However, it’s hard to gripe about the songs overstaying their welcome when the music is so likable.

It’s an impressive debut that deserves any attention it receives. It’s hard to imagine anyone disliking the album, and for a few, it might even become a new favorite.

Key Tracks: “Saints,” “Get Right Back,” “Dark as Days”