Anarbor - Free Your Mind
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Anarbor came out of the scene some time in 2008, and released two efforts that year, Hearing Colors, Seeing Sounds, which they self-released, and The Natural Way EP, their Hopeless debut. None of the band's three releases so far has more than eight songs, so even the supposed LPs seem like EPs. Anarbor needs to get working on a full length, because on Free Your Mind, the band shows a lot of potential, as there's not a dud in the bunch.
Opening up the album is "Let the Games Begin", which works on a seemingly-"AC/DC minus distortion" guitar riff to a Fall Out Boy style hook, all while incorporating soulful lead vocals. The end result sounds like some sort of strange combination of the Foo Fighters and All Time Low, which actually works quite well. The lead single, "The Brightest Green," is an excellent bluesy track fueled by yet another riff, but this one seems more Stevie Ray Vaughn than Angus Young, what with its constant key changes. The instrumentation and vocals are excellent, as the hook is quite memorable and there's even something reminiscent of a breakdown in there, while the pop and blues mentalities are still kept, making the end result a gem.
The track after "The Brightest Green", "Where the Wild Things Are", seems to feature the band wandering off the seemingly determined path set by the tracks preceding it. This track shows the more pop-punk sides of Anarbor as it prominently features palm-muted guitar in the verses, and power-chord filled choruses. The lyrics in this song aren't bad, but aren't particularly poetic, which I could pretty much say for the rest of the album. The song reminds me a lot of The Academy Is... for this reason, as well as the chorus featuring a hi-hat pattern with 16th notes which TAI do quite a lot. The singing is definitely the most different as the vocals seem to be heavily rushed like in a lot of pop-punk today (see: Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Panic at the Disco). However, it's a good song despite making an unexpected turn.
The band seems to try to get back on course with the fourth track, "Halfway Sober," which features a much repeated bluesy guitar riff; and with its theme of sobriety/intoxication you can tell it's fairly bluesy from just reading the title of the song. But Anarbor just has to go off-course with their obviously heavily Midtown-inspired track "You and I," featuring more rushed vocals and a hook that sounds a lot like the hook from Midtown's "Like a Movie." Despite the lack of creativity, the track is still fairly enjoyable. "Passion for Publication" also seems to share the Midtown influence, but it wanted to throw in just about every other influence Anarbor had on the album; there's a sobriety theme, a dash of blues thrown in, some palm muting, and a big hook featuring a good amount of power chords. As odd as I'm going to make this sound, this is a really good thing that makes the album successful: Anarbor's consistency and their maintaining of a "sound," classic rock influenced pop-punk.
Ending the album is the horribly titled "Always Dirty, Never Clean" which also is somewhat reminiscent of Midtown in a few ways. The intro builds up like in a sort of "creeping up on you" horror fashion, as the guitars slowly build up anticipation for an odd hook that has a perfect opportunity to drive right through with heavily distorted power chords but opts not to in favor of a more creative option. The track provides as a pretty good ending, despite being possibly the worst song on the EP (which really isn't saying much), because frankly, it sounds like an end.
Anarbor's third effort shows influences from many different places. Their interesting sound molded together seven solid tracks which is pretty impressive considering the band is only a few years out of high school. The dynamic of Anarbor's music shows a good amount of potential that could have them build up one of our generation's best pop albums. Anarbor does indeed take a lot from their influences; in some cases, you've heard it all before. (Three of the songs are even re-recordings!) But in most cases, you can't wait to hear it yet again.