A Tour Guide to Anberlin’s “Cities”

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Hello Alone

This is one of my favorite songs from the album. I believe it was the first song from Cities they played live – you can watch a video of them performing it in mid-2006 here, when it was being called “The Lesser-Thans.” A pretty cool remix of the song was released on the New Surrender pre-order USB drive.

STEPHEN SAYS: “Depression is a family heirloom in our family. It’s passed down from generation to generation, and that’s unfortunate. A lot of family members have struggled with bipolar, and bouts of it, and stuff like that, to the point where that’s why I think I majored in psychology in university, just because I felt like I wanted to know more about it, and explore it.” [2]

“My family really struggled with it a lot the past year, because my mom got pneumonia, and she took this drug, and she had a complete allergic reaction to it, and she went straight into dementia, didn’t know our names, didn’t know who we were, had no idea, and it was the worst week of my entire life. You can see your mother in the face, you can look her in the face, but you never know if you’re going to see her again, and that just devastated me. So that’s kind of the starting point of where this song comes from, it has nothing to do with that situation, but then it starts talking about depression and loneliness and grief and stuff like that.” [2]

Click here to read a blog entry from Stephen further discussing the situation with his mother mentioned above. This crisis also inspired the opening track to Anchor & Braille’s debut album, Felt – “Rust (The Short Story of Mary Agnosia).”

“And so, again, going with the theme of in and out of the dark, here’s the ‘in’ – the depression – and just at the final moment was the ‘out,’ like – you know what, from a lesser known, from a lesser-than, from a no one, from a bottom-of-the-rung person, here I am – there’s hope. And if I can see that there’s hope, then I want to spread that on that there’s hope to other people, too.” [2]


Alexithymia is a psychological condition in which a person is unable to describe the emotions they’re feeling in words, or sometimes even unable to identify their own feelings or understand the feelings of others. It’s a fairly new term, coined in 1973, and it’s considered to be more of a personality trait than a disorder. It’s been suggested that there are two types – “trait” alexithymia, which endures over time, and “state” alexithymia, which is temporary and can be caused by psychological distress. Below are a couple of links to check out if you want to read up on alexithymia – it’s pretty interesting, especially if you’re into psychology. It’s involved in dreaming, too, in that people with alexithymia often have incredibly realistic dreams, “such as going to the store or eating a meal.” Also, it’s been shown to be more prevalent in males, which apparently some people are linking to the stereotype that men are lousy at talking about their feelings. Personally, I think that’s a load of it – but that’s not the point right now.

http://suicideandmentalhealthassociationinternational.org/SI.html (do a page search for “alexithymia”)

STEPHEN SAYS: “It’s based out of watching the monotony of a life. They’ve stopped being. They’re just content with… go to work, come home, eat the frozen dinner, watch TV, take my clothes off, brush my teeth, go to bed. Wake up, go to work…, and then suddenly, it becomes: whatever happened to all those dreams, and all those passions? It’s just like a skipping needle, life just keeps repeating and repeating and repeating, and it’s just over before you know it.” [2]

“Again, another central theme of the record, there’s more to living than just being alive. There’s going to be turmoil. If you want to live a life worth living, there is going to be absolute hell to pay, and that’s just it. Some things are going to be sacrificed. Your comfort, starting out, you know? If you want to spend the rest of your life in a recliner, you can. What are you going to give up? That’s what you have to take into consideration.” [2]

“The American Dream is comfort. If you want that, if that’s what you’re striving to get, this America is completely conducive. But what do you want? Do you want to make a change in this world or not? And that’s what you have to face. Every day you have to look in the mirror and ask, ‘Is there more to living, or is this it? Am I content right here? Is this what I wanted? When I was that five-year-old, when I looked down my life, would I be disappointed with who I became, if I was fifteen and I had these big dreams and then I kind of gave up on them for this lackluster, internet surfing, let’s turn on a DVD, let’s numb out, let’s not communicate with my family kind of life… it’s about investment, too. What do you invest in? What matters most?” [2]