Never Take Friendship Personal

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Band names are getting dumber and dumber in the Christian rock world, even as the bands get better and better, the guitars bigger and tighter, and the hooks more and more irresistible. All of those trends are epitomized in the sophomore effort by Anberlin, which producer Aaron Sprinkle and engineer J.R. McNeely mixed in such a way as to best approximate the band's ferocious live energy. Try not to be put off by the pretentious song titles ("Audrey, Start the Revolution!," "[the symphony of] blasé," etc.) -- Anberlin is primarily concerned with sweeping you off your feet by means of huge, swooping melodies and rich harmonies, all powered by blunderbuss guitars and tightly structured production. "Paperthin Hymn" is one of the prettiest slabs of guitar rock released in the last ten years; "Stationary Stationery," despite its too-clever-by-half title, is one of the most perfect pop songs of 2004. "Runaways" somehow manages to sound simultaneously like Oingo Boingo and Loverboy -- someday someone is going to have to figure out how they did that. Of this album's 11 tracks, only two are less than brilliant, and only one of those (the superfluous instrumental "Heavy Hearted Work of Staggering Genius," har har) is less than very good. Very highly recommended overall.

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