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Seattle's Acceptance jump to Columbia for Phantoms, after EPs for Rocketstar and Militia Group. ("Permanent" from the latter reappears here.) It's a sound very similar to those earlier records -- heavily influenced by the smooth lines and urgency of Jimmy Eat World, with an alternative CCM bent. Acceptance don't get down for the screaming-guy-behind-singing-guy template that so many 21st century emo-ish groups use -- no, Phantoms is slick and melodic, drawing its tension from the careful multi-tracking of Jason Vena's vocals and layers of guitars. But that's a problem, too. Producer Aaron Sprinkle gives Acceptance the full Tooth & Nail treatment, where the songs have all the buoyancy and plead in the world, but no chance -- none -- for grit. Fans of that sound will gravitate to "Take Cover," "In Too Far," and "Over You." But the songs' distinguishing characteristics are few and far between. Chorus hooks? Sure, but in a manner much too similar to an outfit like, say, Anberlin. Acceptance appear to be very earnest about their music. They include a brief instrumental piece, "Ad Astra Per Aspera," and sing things like "Time shows us that all that ever mattered leaves us in the cold." But what does that really mean? It seems like it'd be meaningful, have a romantic or breakup song sentiment, maybe. But Acceptance never show listeners anything but generalities, because Phantoms is so conscious of its own cleanliness. Cleanliness is nice, but getting a little dirty adds character.

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