Awash in such deeply personal thoughts and emotions, Till The Sunrise is equally saturated with a spirit of hope, togetherness and collaboration, a result of Matt’s new lease on life.
“It was through some difficult situations that I learned to trust God fully and that I feel like I came back to life,” he says. “And life now feels more complete than ever as I share it with Hannah. My music and career have found new inspiration, and everything really feels fresh right now. These songs truly reflect how much better off we are when we take the risk to love and live for something beyond ourselves. The sum really is greater than the parts.”
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To accomplish his fourth studio release, Till the Sunrise, Juno Award-winning independent artist Matt Brouwer looked to friends, community, and the Internet. The project, produced by Michael Omartian was funded by Kickstarter. Additionally, Brouwer used Skype to hold songwriting sessions with friends for six of the eleven tracks. His first album since his 2010 marriage to wife Hannah, Till the Sunrise has love written all over it.
Rather than take a sequential, song-by-song approach, I'm going to talk about songs that are thematically tied. As previously mentioned, this record is largely inspired by Brouwer's wife, Hannah. Let's start with her songs. The album opens with "Till the Sunrise," a carefree love song born out of Brouwer's newfound contentment in marital unity. The track was inspired by a night he and Hannah spent on the beach in Hawaii gazing up at the stars. Brouwer captures the feelings that accompanied his new beginning in marriage and the eternity and promise he glimpsed in the stars.
Two more songs were written with his wife in mind. "One in a Million" is a highly percussive, bouncy pop tune about falling in love with your one perfect match. Fans of Brandon Heath will enjoy this song as Brouwer expresses the jubilance and exuberance one feels when love blossoms. On the flip side, "Wish You Were Here," written in New York City during his first time apart from Hannah, explores the melancholy of separation. Where Brouwer once would have felt at home alone on the road, he now finds himself lonely in surroundings that hold no joy or meaning.
To craft "Thornside," an album highlight, Brouwer mines 2 Corinthians 12:7, where the apostle Paul mentions a "thorn in his side." This gritty Americana number feels a little bit outlaw country, using Wild West imagery to paint the town of Thornside. The song explores how God uses pain and suffering to make us stronger. Thus, Brouwer sings, "I've been waiting for this thorn in my side to set me free." Brouwer's spirited performance makes this a track you won't want to miss.
A couple of songs deal with darkness, but from the hopeful perspective of coming out of darkness into light, from hopelessness into the shelter of God's love. "Tonight" is about the freedom that comes from starting afresh when we surrender control and rest in faith, trusting our safety and security to God. The piano-driven "Ocean" describes the fear we experience as we drift "lost on the ocean," as well as the peace that pervades when we glimpse God's light piercing through the night. Brouwer employs lighthouse imagery to describe Jesus' love: "Peace like a river is surrounding me / when my whole world is a raging sea / Only Your light is what my soul has found / Lost on the ocean."
Brouwer further explores God's love with songs that describe His reach and power, as well as His steadfast commitment to us. The Psalm 139-based "Everlasting" is a melodic, affirming moment of worship, praising God's everlasting love that not only reaches, but surrounds us and never lets go. Similarly, the optimistic "Love Can Find a Way," written with husband and wife team JJ and Dave Heller, paints love as patient, far-reaching, and saving. Brouwer and Heller's vocals combine to great effect as the two sing on the chorus: "Love is patient / It doesn't mind / Even if it has to wait a lifetime / When you think you can't be saved / Love can find a way."
Brouwer takes his exploration of God's loving commitment to us a step farther with the emotive "Someone Else's Arms." On this tune, informed by the book of Hosea, Brouwer and producer Omartian use moody piano and weeping electric guitar to create a soundscape that portrays the tender, forgiving heart we find in God, the faithful lover who awaits the return of the wayward spouse with open arms.
On "One For Another," a co-write with Jill Paquette, Brouwer sings about Christian love and the need for community. Musically, the song has a lot to offer. It creates a landscape of sound with jaunty piano, guitar, drums and percussion, layered background vocals, and strings. Lyrically, though, the verses are a little wordy. Had the melody been tighter, I think the song's message would have greater impact.
The record ends on a bittersweet note as it explores loss and grieving on the vulnerable "Outside, Inside." What began as a reaction to the devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, took a personal turn as Brouwer unexpectedly found himself singing about his father's death from his mother's eyes. It's a haunting song that demonstrates how our world is turned upside down by loss. Artistically, the piece feels like a bookend to "Till the Sunrise," as each reflects a moment in the life cycle of love. I can't help but feel the album could use one more track to reestablish a hopeful mood rather than ending on such a somber note. However, since answers aren't always provided and help does not always come immediately, it's nice that Brouwer does not minimize feelings of loss by glossing over the pain.
Matt Brouwer's Till the Sunrise is an album about love, commitment, and community. The songs touch on many shades of love, including romantic, Divine, and brotherly, as well as the pain that comes from losing someone we loved. The album's production is pristine and the instruments come through crisply, creating an attractive backdrop for Brouwser's honest, personal reflections on life, love, marriage, and faith.
A Deeply Contemplative and Worshipful Project!| Posted February 21, 2012
Matt Brouwer has certainly made a name for himself in the past decade. With just three albums previously released, Matt has already won several awards for his heart-felt and relatable music, including two GMA Canada Covenant Awards and a JUNO Award in 2010. Now, Matt is back with his fourth album on his self-created record label Black Stone Records. Titled Till the Sunrise, this record was shaped mostly by Matt’s recent marriage. Being with Hannah, Matt says, has caused him to view people with more compassion and realize the importance of companions. This is obvious, making Till the Sunrise not only relatable, but a sweet project as well.
Matt Brouwer speaks of his love for his wife through the title track, which opens the album with nice acoustic guitar and booming drums. Also with a catchy melody, this sweet love song speaks of a trip he took with his new wife to Hawaii, where they spent a night gazing at the starry sky and realized he never wanted this love to end. A little bit more mellow, but still nice, “Tonight” speaks of spiritual rebirth, realizing just how powerful the love is God. This track accentuates Matt’s soft yet mature vocals.
With a Gospel and country twang to it, “Thornside” is an awesome conceptual track, one of my favorites from Till the Sunrise. Not only did Matt’s vocals fit the track absolutely perfectly, the lyrics portray a fictional town of “Thornside,” where, based on 2 Corinthians 12, God’s grace is the only thing that can set us free from our thorns in the flesh. The soft and encouraging “Ocean” follows, borrowing lyrics from the “Peace Like a River” hymn. Its beauty makes it a track easy to hit repeat on.
“Everlasting,” Psalm 139 put to melody, sees Matt singing a bit higher, showing off his flexible vocals. But I also enjoyed this Scripture song – it’s always awesome to hear a pure song of Scripture. “One For Another” speaks of the importance of unity, as the track itself has a fun upbeat pop sound. They high vocals in the chorus are quite catchy: “One for another, love (I know that we can be together)…”
The acoustic “One in A Million,” with a light drumbeat celebrates the fact that God has saved one specific person just for us, while “Someone Else’s Arms” has a swing twist to it. With it’s peaceful Southern feel, it reminds us that even when we betray God, He will still be there to welcome us with open arms when we run back to Him.
“Wish You Were Here,” too is made of acoustic guitars, but does have more of a full sound to it. Written around Christmastime, it depicts how Matt Brouwer missed his wife Hannah badly when he was scheduled to play in New York City and flew without her. The track is very sweet, and easy to sense the loneliness in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this track became an anthem for separated couples, as the track itself is generic and has sweet lines such as “I wish you were here to help my world make sense and to break down my defenses the way that only you can know/ ‘cause love has made the whole thing new and I am not complete without you/ I’ve just got to have you near, I wish you were here.”
“Love Can Find Away,” co-written with Dave and JJ Heller, actually features JJ Heller in background and supportive vocals. The powerful track features a bit of a waltz tempo, and speaks of how love can find a way to our heart no matter what the circumstances may be. Closing the album is “Outside, Inside,” a very sad yet relatable song, as it speaks of the depression and devastation over losing someone close.
I have to be honest – despite Matt Brouwer’s successes and several albums, Till the Sunrise is really the first time I’ve listened to the 31-year-old’s music, besides a radio single here and there. Till the Sunrise definitely made me a fan! Many songs are deeply worshipful, others are contemplative or sweet, and several take on Southern twists that are highly enjoyable. This is a great album!
"Till The Sunrise" is a nice love song, "Tonight" was a catchy tune. "Thornside" was a really great song about the thorn in our sides. It was really fun. It was bluesy, had a country and gospel twang. I liked "Ocean." It was a really great ballad about the peace we get from God. "Everlasting" continued the slow pace that started with "Ocean." The mood got really worshipful here. "One For Another" sped things up a bit. "One In a Million" was a bouncy love song. "Someone Else's Arms" slowed things don again. A lot. "Wish You Were Here" was a little faster and was sounded just like a song you'd hear on a secular radio, in a good way. "Love Can Find A Way" broungt to mind Brandon Heath's "Love Never Fails." The JJ Heller vocals nicely blended with Matt Brouwer's vocals. Both of them have soft voices. "Outside, Inside" was a sad ode. It finished off the album on a sad, somber not.
Overall, this album was a great listen. It's totally worth buying and owning.